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More About the NAEP Long-Term Trend Assessment

The most recent NAEP long-term trend assessments in reading and mathematics were administered throughout the nation in 2011-2012 to students at ages 9, 13, and 17.

On this page, learn more about 

The background, goals, and NAEP alignment of the long-term trend assessment

Since its inception in 1969, NAEP has served the important function of measuring our nation's educational progress by regularly administering various subject area assessments to nationally representative samples of students. The existence of the two national assessment programs—long-term trend NAEP and main NAEP—makes it possible to meet two important objectives:

  • to measure student progress over time, and
  • as educational priorities change, develop new assessment instruments that reflect current educational content and assessment methodology.

Because the long-term trend program uses substantially the same assessments decade after decade, it has been possible to chart educational progress since 1971 in reading and 1973 in mathematics. Find out how the long-term trend assessment was developed. Also, see how the long-term trend assessments differ from the main NAEP assessments.

In order to align the assessment with the best current assessment practices and with policies applicable to the NAEP main assessments, several changes to the long-term trend assessment were evaluated in 2004. The evaluation of these changes was done through a bridge study to ensure the comparability of the new assessment and the previous assessments.

Because of the rigorous design of the 2004 bridge study, differences in 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.

What the long-term trend assessments measure

Mathematics: The long-term trend mathematics assessment required students to respond to a variety of age-appropriate questions. The assessment was designed to measure students’

  • knowledge of mathematical facts,
  • ability to carry out computations using paper and pencil,
  • knowledge of basic formulas such as those applied in geometric settings, and
  • ability to apply mathematics to daily-living skills such as those involving time and money.

Unlike certain sections in the main NAEP assessment, students were not permitted to use a calculator in the long-term trend mathematics assessment.

Reading: The NAEP long-term trend reading assessment measures students' reading comprehension skills using an array of passages that vary by text types and length. The assessment was designed to measure students’ ability to

  • locate specific information in the text provided,
  • make inferences across a passage to provide an explanation, and
  • identify the main idea in the text.

Each student took only a part of the assessment, consisting of three 15-minute sections. Each reading section contained three or four short passages and approximately ten questions. Some questions were administered at more than one age. 

Assessment question format

The majority of the mathematics and reading long-term trend assessment questions are multiple-choice

To learn more, see questions from previous long-term trend mathematics and reading assessments in the NAEP Questions Tool.

Students were asked to complete a questionnaire to provide NAEP staff with information on students' demographic characteristics, classroom experiences, and educational support. This questionnaire was evaluated in the bridge study, and was administered with the 2004, 2008, and 2012 long-term trend assessments.


Number of students who took the assessment

The NAEP 2012 long-term trend assessment was administered to  9-, 13-, and 17-year-old students who were enrolled in public and nonpublic elementary and secondary schools throughout the nation. Approximately 26,300 students took the reading assessment, while about 26,200 took the mathematics assessment.

See the student sample sizes and target populations by age for the 2012 assessments, and the participation rates for schools and students.

NAEP does not, and is not designed to, report on the performance of individual students. Instead, it reports average results for groups of the student population from representative national samples. For example, NAEP reports results for male and female students; Black, Hispanic, and White students; and students in different regions of the country. Samples are selected using a complex sampling design.

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.

See the types of accommodations permitted on NAEP assessments, and see tables summarizing the percentage of students identified, excluded, and assessed in long-term trend.

Assessment Sample

The sample for the 2012 long-term trend assessments was selected using a complex multistage sampling design that involved sampling students from selected schools within selected geographic areas across the country. The sampling design had the following stages:

  • selection of geographic areas (a county, group of counties, or metropolitan statistical area);
  • selection of schools (public and nonpublic) within the selected areas; and
  • random selection of students within the selected schools.

Each selected school that participated in the assessment and each student assessed represents a portion of the population of interest. Some smaller populations were oversampled to ensure sufficient representation. Therefore, sampling weights are needed to make valid inferences between the student samples and the respective populations from which they were drawn. Sampling weights adjust for disproportionate representation due to such oversampling.

The target population consisted of 9-, 13-, and 17-year-old students. Eligibility for the age 9 and age 13 samples was based on calendar year: students in the age 9 sample were 9 years old on January 1, 2012, with birth months January 2002 through December 2002, and students in the age 13 sample were 13 years old on January 1, 2012, with birth months January 1998 through December 1998. Students eligible for the age 17 sample had to be 17 years old on October 1, 2012, with birth months October 1994 through September 1995.

See a table summarizing the sample size and target population for the long-term trend assessment.

View a summary of the long-term trend school and student participation rates.

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 2012 long-term trend assessment Report Card.

To find the results of other assessments, visit The Nation's Report Card website.


Last updated 25 June 2013 (AA)