Achievement Levels

Results for the main NAEP assessments are reported using the achievement levels authorized by the NAEP legislation and adopted by the National Assessment Governing Board. The achievement levels are based on collective judgments about what students should know and be able to do relative to the body of content reflected in each subject-area assessment. For each subject area, three levels—Basic, Proficient, and Advanced—are defined for each grade, within scale score cut points.

Achievement-level data can be presented in two ways.

In the NAEP Data Explorer, achievement levels may be selected as variables, but then the only statistic available will be percentages. If achievement levels are selected instead as one of your two statistics choices, then you have the choice of one other statistic: Average Scale Scores, Percentages, Percentiles, or Standard Deviations.

When Achievement Levels is selected as a variable, with percentages the only statistic, you will not be able to move Jurisdictions, Years, or Achievement Levels to the Column area of your table. NDE will give you an error message in that case. Read more in the section Achievement Levels as Independent Variables (Technical).

The definition for each achievement level was developed by a broadly representative panel of teachers, education specialists, and members of the general public. Subject-and grade-specific detailed definitions are available in each subject section on this site. The policy definitions of the levels are:

As provided by law, the Commissioner of Education Statistics has determined that the achievement levels are to be used on a trial basis and should be interpreted and used with caution. However, both the Commissioner and the National Assessment Governing Board believe these performance standards are useful for understanding trends in student achievement.

Note: the NAEP long-term trend assessment does not use achievement levels, but uses a similar metric called Performance Levels.