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History and Innovation

In the early 1960s Francis Keppel, then U.S. Commissioner of Education, recognized the need for a nation assessment that would provide technically sound and valid data regarding pupils' knowledge, skills, and abilities... For nearly 100 years reports issued by previous commissioners dealt primarily with summary descriptive statistics of "input" variables in the education system, such as per pupil expenditures, attendance, number of classrooms, teacher salaries, enrollment, and so forth... Only during Keppel's tenure... (1962-1965) was any attention paid to gathering data on such "output" variables as how much students are learning and what progress is being made [in] U.S. education.

--The Nation's Report Card: Evolution and Perspectives

After much exploration of a national assessment in the early 1960s, an Exploratory Committee for the Assessment Progress in Education (ECAPE) was established in 1964 and the first national assessments - now known as the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) - were held successfully in 1969.

Since those first assessments, the origin and evolution of a successful NAEP program has involved a wide array of participants, including researchers, state and district education officials, contractors, policymakers, students, and teachers. NAEP has grown to meet changes in the educational landscape and has ensured the efficiency of its processes and the credibility of its results by introducing many technical innovations in test design, statistical analysis, psychometrics, and modern computing.

Explore the history of the NAEP program, the major technical innovations introduced to support its success, and its leadership.

1964

Begins planning for the first assessments after the idea of a national assessment gains national attention.

1969

Administers first trial national assessments in citizenship, science, and writing to 9-, 13-, and 17-year-olds. See a chronology of NAEP assessments administered since 1969

1986

Develops new assessments and long-term trend assessments in reading, mathematics, and science designed to continue the original NAEP trend lines. NAEP split into two strands - main NAEP, which use the new design, and long-term trend NAEP, which continued the past methodology to maintain the long-term trend lines.

1988

Begins partnership with the National Assessment Governing Board: a 26-member, independent, bipartisan group appointed by the Secretary of Education to oversee the development of the NAEP framework. Read a short history of NAEP and the Governing Board.

1990
1994

Administers first trial assessments to each state. See history of state participation in NAEP.

1994
1998

Assesses nonpublic (private) schools in the state assessments. After 1998, results for nonpublic (private) schools are only reported at the national level.

1996

Authorizes state assessments as fully operational assessments that are no longer "trial."

1996

Begins trial of allowing testing accommodations to a designated sample of special-needs students for the national assessments in science and mathematics. Learn more about history of inclusion.

1998

Allows testing accommodations for all students in subjects in which new trend lines are being introduced (writing and civics) and continue trial testing in reading. Learn more about the history of inclusion.

2001

Begins testing mathematics and reading for grades 4 and 8 every other year in all states, and on a nationally representative basis at grade 12 at least as often as it has been done in the past or every 4 years per a congressionally mandated education act passed in 2001.

2002

Offers accommodations to all students who need them to demonstrate their knowledge and ability on all assessments. NAEP no longer assesses non-accommodated samples. Learn more about history of inclusion.

2002

Includes select urban districts in state-level assessments. This program continues as the Trial Urban District Assessment.

2009

Begins moving to a computer-based assessment for science, where part of the student sample completes interactive computer tasks. See interactive science tasks.

2011

Administers the writing assessment for grades 8 and 12 entirely on a computer.

2014

Administers new technology and engineering literacy assessment entirely on computer.

2015

Administers digitally based assessment pilot in mathematics, reading, and science.

2017
1969

Develops first assessment sampling plan to ensure all students in U.S. schools have a knowable probability of being sampled and introduce the concept of matrix sampling so that a large pool of test items could be administered to a sample without overwhelming the students participating.

1969

Reports assessment results with standard errors along with estimates to give readers an idea of the accuracy of its estimates of student performance. Learn more about early assessment design and reporting.

1983

Alters sampling plan for both ages and grades to support distinct reporting, and for completion of a short questionnaire explaining the reasons for excluding students with disabilities.

1983

Assembles booklets using Balanced Incomplete Block (BIB) spiraling to ensure that the assessment item pool covers broad areas.

1983

Adds major design feature of scaling the assessment data using Item Response Theory (IRT)–an alternative to computing the percent of items answered correctly which allows the placing of results for students given different booklets on a common scale.

1983
1984

Implements plausible values as a technical solution to avoid biased population estimates when using only estimated scores.

1983
1984

Develops scale anchoring - a way of presenting the assessment results to the general public where anchor points along the scale describe what most students at each anchor point know and could do.

1990

Implements new framework for the 1990 mathematics assessment and creates new trend line, which uses the "Main NAEP Trend" (MT) sample; a separate "Long-Term Trend (LTT)" sample is taken using the same procedures and items as previous LTT assessments.

1990

Restructures NAEP sampling plan so that participating states will not have students assessed twice and so that a separate sample of nonparticipating states will ensure a good national estimate of student performance.

1990

Introduces achievement levels for each subject area assessed (Basic, Proficient, and Advanced) which replace the scale anchoring approach to reporting results.

1992

Institutes new way of handling graded or partial credit responses. This method opens the door for more complicated open–ended items in all NAEP subject areas

1996

Initiates split–sample design efforts to study the effect of assessment accommodations on NAEP results. Begin a transition in which NAEP official reporting samples would come to include students assessed with accommodations.

2001
2003

Conducts research on using technology to assess mathematics, writing, and problem solving. The project was designed to explore the use of technology, especially the use of the computer, as a tool to enhance the quality and efficiency of educational assessments.

2002

Supports the introduction of the Trial Urban District Assessment by increasing and adjusting the NAEP sample so that the national estimates are retained and students are not tested more than once.

2003

Creates methodology for comparing each state's standard for proficient performance in reading and mathematics by placing the state standards onto a common scale defined by NAEP scores. This process of "state mapping" shows where each state's standards lie on the NAEP scale, providing important contributions to analysis.

2009
Present

Begins and continues process of transitioning assessments to digitally based content and delivery.

2017
1964
1968

Assistant Commissioner Alexander M. Mood

1968
1974

Assistant Commissioner Dorothy M. Gilford

1975
1976

Assistant Commissioner Francis C. Nassetta (Acting)

1976
1984

Assistant Commissioner Marie D. Eldridge

1984
1995

Commissioner Emerson J. Elliott

1995
1996

Commissioner Jeanne E. Griffith (Acting)

1996
1999

Commissioner Pascal D. Forgione

1999
2003

Gary W. Phillips (Acting)

2003
2004

Commissioner Robert Lerner

2004
2008

Commissioner Mark Schneider

2004
2008

Commissioner Stuart Kerachsky (Acting)

2010
2013

Commissioner Sean P. "Jack" Buckley

2013
2017

Commissioner Peggy G. Carr (Acting)

2017
present

Commissioner James Lynn Woodworth