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Analyze and Release the Results

Assessment data undergo an extensive process before they are released in The Nation's Report Card, a formal web-based report with accompanying data tools. This process involves

  • weighting of NAEP data,
  • analysis of NAEP data, and
  • preparing and reviewing the report.


Before the data are analyzed, responses from sampled groups of students are statistically weighted to ensure that their representation in NAEP results parallel the actual percentage of the school population in the grades assessed.

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In most subjects, data for national and state NAEP assessments are analyzed using the following process:

  • Check Item Data and Performance: The data and performance of each item are checked in a number of ways: scoring reliability checks, item analyses, and differential item functioning (DIF) to ensure fair and reliable measures of performance in the subject of the assessment. DIF reflects the differential probability of doing well on the item depending on group membership, even after controlling for overall performance.
  • Set the Scale for Assessment Data: Each subject assessed is divided into sub-skills, purposes, or content domains as specified by the subject framework. Separate scales are developed relating to the content of each subject area (i.e., mathematics, reading, etc.). A special statistical procedure called, Item Response Theory scaling, is used to estimate the measurement characteristics of each assessment question. The scaling involves analysis procedures that mathematically model the probability that participants will respond correctly to a specific test question, given their overall performance together with the characteristics of the questions on the test.
  • Estimate Group Performance Results: Because NAEP must minimize the time burden on students and schools by keeping assessment administration brief. No individual student takes more than a small portion of the assessment for a given content domain. NAEP uses scaling procedures to estimate the performance of groups of students (e.g., of all fourth-grade students in the nation, of female eighth-grade students in a state).
  • Transform Results to the Reporting Scale: Results for assessments conducted in different years are linked to reporting scales to allow comparisons of year-to-year trend results for common populations on related assessments.
  • Create a Database: A database is created and used to make comparisons of all results, such as scale scores, percentiles, percentages at or above achievement levels, and comparisons between groups and between years for a group. All comparisons are tested for statistical significance, and standard errors are computed for all statistics.

To ensure the reliability of NAEP results, extensive quality control and plausibility checks are carefully conducted as part of each analysis step. Quality control tasks are intended to verify that analysis steps have not introduced errors or artifacts into the results. Plausibility checks are intended to encourage thinking about the results, whether they make sense, and what story they tell.

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Preparation and Review

NAEP and its partners create a web-based report presenting the results. This involves

  • writing the web-based report;
  • reviewing the report for accuracy, presentation, and accessibility by the NAEP Assessment Division, NAEP partners, NCES Chief Statistician, NCES Associate Commissioner, NCES Commissioner, the National Assessment Governing Board, and other external stakeholders;
  • conducting quality assurance and 508 accessibility testing of the web-based report and accompanying data tools;
  • preparing the web-based report for online release; and
  • preparing a release plan for the report including media embargoed access, a communications plan for advertising the upcoming release, and the release of NAEP data, and the release event itself.
  • preparing and reviewing the report.


NCES has developed a number of different publications and web-based tools that provide direct access to NAEP assessment student achievement results at the national, state, and urban district levels. For every major assessment release, specific content is developed that is suitable to the web environment. There is also a NAEP Publications Library that offers several types of printed reports, technical reports that contain the psychometric details of assessments, and other types of media related to a data release. The Guide to Understanding Assessment Results serves as a useful resource when navigating and interpreting reports data.

Last updated 15 February 2022 (AA)