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What NAEP Measures

NAEP consists of two different types of assessments: main NAEP and long-term trend NAEP.

  • The long-term trend (LTT) assessments began in 1969 and measures the trends of academic progress in mathematics and reading for students at ages 9, 13, and 17. The LTT assessment is administered every four years.
  • Main NAEP assessments began in 1990 and measure subject area achievement by students in grades 4, 8, and 12. Main NAEP results can be reported at three levels:
    • National results are reported for all subjects, usually at grades 4, 8, and 12.
    • State results are reported for only four subjects, usually at grades 4 and 8.
    • District results are reported for selected urban districts in the same subjects and grades as state-level results.

No comparison can be made between LTT and main NAEP results, but results from both are available in the NAEP Data Explorer and the NAEP Questions Tool. See a list of all assessments since 1969.

What NAEP measures at the national level

Main NAEP measures the knowledge of fourth-, eighth-, and/or twelfth-grade students across the nation  in the following subject areas: 

The Arts  Civics  Economics 
Geography  Mathematics  Reading 
Science  U.S. History  Writing

National assessments in technology and engineering literacy, foreign language, and world history are in the planning stages.

Main NAEP assessments are constructed using detailed frameworks that result from a comprehensive national process in which teachers, curriculum experts, policymakers, and members of the general public work to create a unified vision of how a particular subject ought to be assessed, This vision is based on current educational research on achievement and its measurement, as well as good educational practices. These frameworks are updated about every decade in order to keep them current.

The national assessment is administered by rigorously-trained test administrators who use the same script across every part of the country. The administration period usually runs from late January to early March throughout the country.

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What NAEP measures at the state level

State NAEP measures the knowledge of fourth- and eighth-grade students in four of the subject areas that are also reported at the national level.

In 2009, eleven states volunteered to participate in the first-ever NAEP state assessment at grade 12 in mathematics and reading.

Mathematics and reading are offered every other year, and science and writing every four years, coinciding with the mathematics and reading assessments. NAEP assessments for which state results are produced are administered by the same staff, using the same assessment protocols as those assessments for which only national results are produced.

Results for the state NAEP assessment are reported simultaneously with the national results as part of the Nation's Report Card. Results are presented for each participating state as a whole, as well as for various groups within the state.

While there are no results for individual students or schools, each state will receive an average scale score for all participating students and the student performance for the state will be presented in the NAEP achievement levels. The state NAEP results allow readers to compare the performance of students in a selected state to students in other states and students in the nation as a whole.

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What NAEP measures at the district level

Selected urban districts may receive individual NAEP results through the Trial Urban District Assessment (TUDA) program that began in 2002. Results are reported on what fourth- and eighth-graders in each participating district know and can do in the same subjects as for state NAEP.

Students in TUDA districts take the same assessments  in the same manner as all selected students across the country. The sample of students selected for NAEP within a state which contains one or more TUDA districts is expanded to allow reliable reporting of student groups within these districts. Results for the TUDA districts are reported in the same manner as state results, which allow for comparison among other TUDA districts, against states, and the nation. However, the primary point of comparison for TUDA results is against the average score and achievement levels for "Large City," which generalizes the results for all areas of the nation categorized as large urban districts.

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What long-term trend NAEP measures

The LTT assessment measures student progress in mathematics and reading over a long period for students at ages 9, 13, and 17. LTT assessments are constructed differently from main NAEP and must remain basically unchanged over many decades. The LTT assessment was last administered in 2008, and will be given again in 2012.

Read about various aspects of LTT and see how LTT differs from the main NAEP assessments.

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Last updated 13 March 2015 (TO)