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More About NAEP Arts

The 2008 NAEP arts assessment measures students' knowledge and skills in the arts by asking them to observe, describe, analyze, and evaluate existing works of music and visual art and to create original works of visual art.

On this page, learn more about:

The NAEP arts framework

The National Assessment Governing Board oversees the development of NAEP frameworks that describe the specific knowledge and skills to be assessed in each subject. Frameworks incorporate ideas and input from subject area experts, school administrators, policymakers, teachers, parents, and others. The 2008 NAEP Arts Education Assessment Framework PDF File (1.14 MB)  describes the assessment content and how students' responses are evaluated. The inclusion of the arts in NAEP 2008 marked the fourth time the disciplines of music and visual arts have been assessed nationally. Music was first assessed in 1972 and visual arts in 1975. They were both last assessed in 1997. In 2016, NAEP plans to assess eighth-grade students in music and visual arts.

The assessment exercises and scoring criteria were developed by a committee of arts and measurement experts to capture the goals of the framework. The framework, which describes the goals of the arts assessment and what kind of exercises it ought to feature, was created by the Board through a development process involving teachers and researchers, measurement experts, policymakers, and members of the general public. This framework shaped the 1997 and 2009 arts assessments. The NAEP Arts Committee was instrumental in developing material for the assessment, guided by the framework.

The framework specifies that students' arts knowledge and skills be measured in four arts disciplines: dance, music, theater, and visual arts. In 2008, NAEP assessed students in music and visual arts only because of budget constraints and the small percentage of schools with dance and theater programs. The 2008 assessment is based on a nationally representative sample of eighth-grade students.

According to the framework, the teaching of the arts, at its best, will emphasize creating and performing works of art as well as studying and analyzing existing works. Thus, meaningful assessments should be built around three arts processes—creating, performing, and responding. The 2008 assessment evaluated the responding process in music and both the responding and creating processes in visual arts.

Creating refers to expressing ideas and feelings in the form of an original work of art, for example, a dance, a piece of music, a dramatic improvisation, or a sculpture.
Responding refers to observing, describing, analyzing, and evaluating works of art.

Assessment exercise formats

In order to capture the processes of creating and responding, the arts assessment consisted of the following types of exercises:

Authentic tasks that assessed students' knowledge and skills in creating in the visual arts. In the 2008 assessment, students were asked to respond to questions about music and create works of visual art using various media. Students were also asked to evaluate their own work in written form.
Constructed-response and multiple-choice questions that explored students' abilities to describe, analyze, interpret, and evaluate works of art in written form.

To learn more, see arts assessment questions in the NAEP Questions Tool.

NAEP also gives questionnaires to teachers, students, and schools that are part of the NAEP sample. Responses to these questionnaires give NAEP information about how teachers teach dance, music, theater, and visual arts, what kinds of arts learning students experience in schools, and what kinds of opportunities for arts education are made available by schools.


Number of students who took the assessment

The NAEP 2008 arts assessment was conducted throughout the nation at grade 8. Because of budgetary constraints, NAEP could not comprehensively assess the arts at grades 4, 8, and 12, so in 2008, the assessment was administered at grade 8 only.

Approximately 4,000 eighth-graders were assessed in music, and another 3,900 were assessed in visual arts. Nationally representative samples of schools and students participated in the arts assessment. The results are based on about 260 public and private schools across the nation.

NCES statistical standards require that a nonresponse bias analysis be conducted for any school or student group with a participation rate that falls below 85 percent. The participation rates for the 2008 NAEP arts assessment indicated a need for a school nonresponse bias analysis for the private school sample. The results show that school substitution and nonresponse adjustments were not effective in reducing nonresponse bias for the percentage of Hispanic students enrolled and type of private schools (Catholic and other private schools). The disproportionate nonresponse results in an overestimation of the percentage of Hispanic students, an overestimation of the percentage of Catholic school students, and an underestimation of the percentage of other private school students.

See participation rates for the arts assessment.
View sample sizes, and target populations.

NAEP does not, and is not designed to, report on the performance of individual students. Instead, it assesses specific populations of in-school students or subgroups of these populations, for example, male and female students, Black and White students, and students in different regions of the country. Learn more about the student sample below.

Permitted accommodations 

NAEP has always endeavored to assess all students selected as a part of its sampling process, including students who are classified by their schools as students with disabilities (SD) and English language learners (ELL). The decision to exclude any of these students is made by school personnel. School personnel are encouraged to use inclusion criteria provided by NAEP and may discuss their inclusion decisions with NAEP field staff. School officials advised assessment staff on SD/ELL students accommodations necessary for individual students sampled for an assessment in a given arts discipline. Students for whom recommended SD/ELL accommodations could not be made were classified as ineligible for the assessment. See additional information on inclusion:

View the percentage of SD and ELL students identified, excluded, and assessed in NAEP arts assessments
View the types of accommodations permitted in the assessments.

Assessment sample

The samples for the 2008 arts assessment were selected using a complex sampling design similar to the diagram of the sampling design for state assessments.

This national sampling design involved sampling students from selected schools within selected geographic areas across the country. The sample design had the following stages:

1. selection of geographic areas (a county, group of counties, or metropolitan statistical area);
2. selection of schools (public and nonpublic) within the selected areas; and
3. selection of intact classrooms of students (for the music and visual arts assessments) within each sampled school. To ensure random sampling of students with training in each arts discipline, criteria for sampling classrooms specified that the subject taught in each classroom selected should not be the subject being assessed (e.g., classes sampled for the visual arts assessment could not be visual arts classrooms; classes sampled for the music assessment could not be music classrooms).

Each selected school that participated in the assessment and each student assessed represents a portion of the population of interest. Results are weighted to make appropriate inferences between the student samples and the respective populations from which they are drawn. Sampling weights are adjusted for the disproportionate representation of some groups in the selected sample. This includes the oversampling of schools with high concentrations of students from certain racial/ethnic groups and the lower sampling rates of students who attend very small schools.

View a summary of the national target population for the 2008 arts assessment.
View a summary of the student and school participation rates for the 2008 arts assessment.

Additional resources

Learn more about NAEP, the nation's largest continuing and nationally representative assessment of what students know and can do in core subjects.

View the NAEP 2008 Arts Report Card.

Explore the most recent NAEP results in any subject on The Nation’s Report Card website.


Last updated 29 July 2012 (NB)