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NAEP 2021 student data collection postponed until 2022.

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Organization and Governance

The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) is a congressionally mandated program that is overseen and administered by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), within the U.S. Department of Education and the Institute of Education Sciences. Also known as The Nation’s Report Card, NAEP has provided important information about how students are performing academically since 1969. The National Assessment Governing Board, an independent body appointed by the Secretary of Education, sets NAEP policy.

The Education Sciences Reform Act (P.L. 107-279) is the governing statute of NAEP. This law stipulates that NCES develops and administers NAEP and reports NAEP results. Under the law, the National Assessment Governing Board is given responsibility for setting the assessment schedule, developing the frameworks that provide the blueprint for the content and design of the assessment, and setting achievement levels.


img-NAGB-graphic-small National Assessment Governing Board U.S. Department of Education Institute of Education Sciences National Center for Education Statistics National Assessment of Educational Progress
U.S. Department of Education National Assessment Governing Board Institute of Education Sciences National Center for Education Statistics National Assessment of Educational Progress

Responsibilities of NCES

The Commissioner of Education Statistics leads NCES within the U.S. Department of Education and is legally responsible for carrying out NAEP. NCES oversees and implements key operations of the assessment.

NCES is mandated to

  • collect and analyze education information and statistics in a manner that meets the highest methodological standards. Statistics must be timely, objective, neutral, and unbiased. The U.S. Office of Management and Budget provides guidance on responsibilities and statistical practices to which several federal statistical agencies, particularly NCES, must adhere (OMB Statistical Policy Directive No. 1);
  • maintain data credibility through its assessment design, collection, analysis, release, and dissemination procedures;
  • administer NAEP reading and mathematics assessments for grades 4 and 8 every other year in all states;
  • test these subjects on a nationally representative basis for grade 12 either as often as it has in the past or every 4 years;
  • test additional assessment subjects—such as writing, science, history, geography, civics, and arts—on a varying 3- to 8-year cycle. NCES also conducts long-term trend assessments of academic achievement at ages 9, 13, and 17 in reading and mathematics;
  • set standards for student data collection and the random sampling processes;
  • secure personally identifiable information (PII) about students, their academic achievement, and their families. Information with respect to individual schools also must remain confidential;
  • publish NAEP results for selected student characteristics, including race/ethnicity, eligibility for the National School Lunch Program (which serves as an indicator of socioeconomic status), and school location. These data are published in official reports and data tools, enabling users to perform their own analyses; and
  • uphold the prohibition of using NAEP items and data to rank, compare, or otherwise evaluate individual students or teachers, or to provide rewards or sanctions for individual students, teachers, schools or local educational agencies. Furthermore, NAEP cannot be used to establish, require, or influence the standards, assessments, curriculum, or instructional practices of states or local educational agencies.

The National Assessment Governing Board

The duties of the Governing Board include the following:

  • selection of assessment subjects for administration;
  • development of student achievement levels;
  • development of assessment objectives and specifications that reflect current professional standards;
  • assessment reviews that involve active participation of teachers, curriculum specialists, local school administrators, parents, and the public;
  • design of assessment methodology to ensure that assessment items are valid and reliable;
  • measurement of student academic achievement in grades 4, 8, and 12;
  • development of guidelines for reporting and disseminating results;
  • development of standards and procedures for regional and national comparisons;
  • acting to improve the form, content, use, and reporting of results of any assessment; and,
  • planning and execution of the initial public release event of NAEP reports.

The Commissioner meets with the Governing Board routinely to coordinate NAEP duties and activities. The Commissioner also shares with the Governing Board actions that the Department of Education has made in relation to advice from the Governing Board.


Last updated 27 October 2020 (MB)