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2004 Bridge Study

Several changes were made to the long-term trend assessment in 2004 to align it with best current assessment practices and with policies applicable to the NAEP main assessments. According to the new policy of the National Assessment Governing Board (NAGB), reading and mathematics are to be assessed by both the long-term trend instruments and the main NAEP instruments, but science and writing will be assessed only in main NAEP. As a result, changes were needed to remove the sets, or blocks, of questions for science and writing, which had been intermixed with the reading and mathematics blocks in the long-term trend assessment instruments.

The changes provided an opportunity to bring other aspects of the assessment up to date. Considerable progress in testing theory has been made since the late 1960s, when these assessments were first designed, and the 2004 administration provided an opportunity to bring these improvements to the long-term trend assessments.

In addition, since 1996, main NAEP assessments have been providing accommodations to allow more students with disabilities and students who were not fluent in English to participate. Traditionally, the long-term trend assessments have not provided such accommodations. However, in 2004, it was possible to provide accommodations and assess a greater proportion of students.

As a result of these changes, two assessments were given in 2004—a revised assessment that contained many changes from previous assessments, and an original assessment that was used to bridge the revised assessment to the 1999 assessment so the trend line could be continued.

The revised assessment included the following changes:

  • replacing outdated material;
  • eliminating blocks of items for subjects no longer reported;
  • replacing and reorganizing background questions;
  • allowing accommodations for students who needed them; and
  • changing some administrative procedures, i.e., eliminating audio-paced tapes and using assessment booklets that pertain only to a single subject.

In 2004, students were randomly assigned to take either the original assessment or the revised assessment. The original assessment replicated the instrument given in 1999 and used the same administration procedures. The revised assessment included the new items and modifications listed above.

Because of the rigorous design of the study, differences in 2004 results from the original and revised versions could be attributed solely to the inclusion of students who would have been excluded if accommodations had not been offered in the revised version. These differences were comparable to those seen when accommodations were first introduced in the main NAEP assessments. In particular, for 9-year-olds, 2004 results overall and for male students were lower in the revised assessment format than in the original format. This is consistent with expectations, given the increased inclusion in the revised assessment results of students with disabilities and English learners who otherwise would have been excluded from the assessment. It was therefore concluded that, bearing in mind the differences in the populations of students assessed (accommodated vs. not accommodated), future assessment results could be compared to those from earlier assessments based on the original version. Read a full description of the results of the bridge study in NAEP 2004 Trends in Academic Progress: Three Decades of Student Performance in Reading and Mathematics

The results reported on this website use the data from the bridge assessment to maintain trend lines across years. The modified assessment will provide the basis of comparison for all future assessments, and the bridge will link its results back to the results of the past 30 years.

Comparing the results of the revised and original assessments demonstrates that the link between the 2004 original and revised assessments successfully continues the trend line.

Last updated 21 January 2021 (AA)