Peggy G. Carr, Ph.D.
Acting Commissioner of the National Center for Education Statistics
Statement on NAEP's Transition to Digitally Based Assessments
October 31, 2017
In Spring 2017, the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) completed a major step with its transition to digitally based assessments for the reading and mathematics portions of the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), also known as The Nation’s Report Card. NAEP assessed over half a million fourth- and eighth-graders across the country in reading and mathematics with digital devices. Also in 2017, the writing assessment was given for the second time on a digital platform. To minimize the burden on schools and to standardize the administration across schools and states, NCES provided all the equipment for the assessments. The move to digitally based assessments reflects how NAEP has evolved to address the changing landscape of learning in and out of the classroom.
This transition was carefully planned over several years, and was based on a wealth of knowledge and experience in digital assessments. The NCES team of experts has conducted special technology-based studies and administered digitally based assessments for writing and technology and engineering literacy (TEL). In 2015, NCES conducted pilot studies to gather data that would support the transition of grades 4 and 8 reading and mathematics assessments from paper-and-pencil to a digital format. That transition was completed with the 2017 administration of the National Assessment.
Digitally based assessments will allow NAEP to report not only on student performance but also on student actions on the assessment related to performance, such as those recorded through the keyboard and mouse. In mathematics, we can learn how long students spend on different mathematical tasks and how they use built-in tools—like calculators and rulers—to solve problems. In reading, we can see how long it takes students to read a passage and how often they return to it as they answer questions. In writing, we can see how much time students spend writing, how many revisions they make, and at what point in the writing process they make revisions. This information expands and enriches reporting while also informing the development of future assessments and questions.
Moving forward, NAEP will use a digital format for all subjects it assesses. In 2018, civics, geography, and U.S. history will transition from paper-and-pencil to digital and TEL will continue to be administered on laptop computers.
During these transitions, NCES is taking great care to maintain NAEP’s contribution as the common “yardstick” in large-scale assessments and to maintain the reporting of trends in student performance over time. As in the past, NCES will report trends in student achievement for the nation, all states, and participating urban districts. For the first time in reading and mathematics, The Nation’s Report Card will report on the steps students take in responding to assessment questions.
NCES and the National Assessment Governing Board will share the NAEP 2017 reading and mathematics results in early 2018 and will continue to deliver rich data on what students know and can do.