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The Nation's Report Card: It's More Than Just a Test

Our children take tests for everything, but the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP)—also called The Nation’s Report Card—is unique.

The Nation’s Report Card is a resource—a national wakeup call—because it offers a window into the state of our education system and what our children are learning. The results provide educators, policymakers, elected officials, and parents across the country with invaluable information regarding how our children are doing compared to other children in participating large urban districts, other states, and the nation.

When our children participate, they are helping to inform decisions about how to improve education in your state and in our country. The participation of your child can and often does lead to change.

NAEP Sparks Change Across the Country



To address the state’s growing economy and workforce needs, Oregon referenced grade 4 NAEP mathematics data to shape a STEM Education Plan in 2016. This plan was established to develop important science, technology, engineering, and mathematics skills for students of all races, economic status, and regions.

Detroit, Michigan

Detroit, Michigan

In 2009, the NAEP assessment revealed that Detroit schoolchildren ranked the lowest in the nation in both grades 4 and 8. In response to the alarming results, The Detroit Free Press partnered with the Detroit Public Schools (DPS) to create and implement a new reading initiative, The Call to Action for a new Reading Corps, which encouraged citizens to volunteer 100,000 hours collectively to tutor reading in DPS schools.

North Carolina

North Carolina

In 2005, results from the NAEP reading assessment revealed that eighth grade students in North Carolina scored below the national average. In response, the state deployed more than 200 literacy coaches to middle schools around the state to help teachers reach students with reading difficulties before they made the transition to high school.

Why Is Your Child's Participation Important?

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Every year, the nation depends on students just like your child to participate in NAEP. Not all students take the assessment; your child was selected to represent hundreds of students across the country. To make sure that NAEP results report just how much our children and their peers know and can do, it's essential that they participate in the assessment and try their best.

What Do You Need to Know?

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If your child is participating in NAEP, your child’s school will send you a letter with details and information about the assessment. Here is what you need to know.

  • Not every student or school takes the test.
  • Your child’s grades aren’t affected! Results are anonymous.
  • The test requires 90-120 minutes to minimize time away from instruction.
  • The test is administered on tablets provided by NAEP and sometimes on paper-and-pencil or laptop computers.
  • If your child takes the test on a tablet, your child will complete a tutorial on how to use the tablet before taking the test.
  • Accommodations are provided so that as many students as possible can participate.
  • Survey questionnaires are voluntarily completed by students, teachers, and school administrators. Student survey questionnaires ask your child about their educational experiences and opportunities to learn both in and out of the classroom.
  • Questionnaire responses are anonymous and cannot be linked to your child’s identity or personal information.
  • The subjects most frequently tested are mathematics, reading, science, and writing
  • NAEP is often called the gold standard of assessments and has been around since 1969.

What Can Your Child Expect During a Digitally Based Assessment?

During testing, all necessary equipment (tablets, ear buds, and administrative equipment) will be provided by NAEP. The only resources a school will need to provide are space, desks or tables, and electricity. Your child will learn about how to use the tablet and enter their responses by viewing a short tutorial. Questionnaire used to capture the learning experiences or your child both in and out of the classroom will also be administered on tablets.

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What Do NAEP Results Tell Us About Education?

Compared to 1998, the first year of the civics assessment, the average score for eighth-graders increased by 4 points in 2014.
Explore The Nation's Report Card.

NAEP reports provide more than just results in school subjects and grades.

  • You can see how students have performed over time, including by racial/ethnic groups and gender.
  • You can learn which states are closing achievement gaps, and see whether your state is making progress.
  • You can find out how coursetaking and grades of America’s most recent high school graduates lead to graduation, and see if our children are prepared for the future.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why is this the first time I am hearing about NAEP?

The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) is usually referred to as "NAEP" during the preparation for and administration of the assessment. Once the results have been processed and compiled into the results that are presented to the public, it is known as The Nation's Report Card. Because of this different terminology, many people who have never been involved in the assessment may never have heard of NAEP, even if they have heard of the Nation’s Report Card.

When will my child take the test?

See a schedule of upcoming NAEP assessments.

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Does NAEP replace the state tests that my child takes every year?

No. Most state tests measure student performance using the state's own curriculum standards (i.e., what the state considers important for its students to know). State tests enable the comparison of results over time within the state, but because state tests are created according to each state's individual curriculum standards, they do not allow comparisons of results with other states or the nation.

NAEP asks the same questions and is administered in the same way in every state nationwide, providing a common measure of student progress and making comparisons between states possible. NAEP helps states answer such questions as:

  • How does the performance of students in my state compare with the performance of students in states with similar resources or demographics?
  • How does my state's performance compare with the nation's?
  • Are my state's gains in student performance keeping up with the pace of improvement in other states?

While the two assessment types differ in substantial ways, state tests and NAEP work together to give educators and policymakers a comprehensive picture of student performance.

Learn more about the comparisons between NAEP and the state assessments and find out about your state's participation history and performance in NAEP in the State Profiles tool.

Why doesn't NAEP test in every grade?

NAEP tests a small sample of students at grades 4, 8, and 12 for the main assessments, and at ages 9, 13, or 17 for the long-term trend assessments. These specific three grades and ages represent critical junctures in academic achievement. Limiting the assessment to three ages provides valuable data while limiting the testing burden on schools.

How was my child selected?

Your child was randomly selected to participate as a representative of students in your state who attend schools with similar characteristics. The schools selected to participate in NAEP are representative of the demographic and geographic composition of the state as a whole. In a typical state, about 100 schools are selected for grade 4 assessment and 100 schools for grade 8 assessment.

Your child was selected from a list of all students in his/her grade in the school, including the students with special needs. The NAEP staff selects students from this list by using a statistically valid randomization process. Neither a student’s class performance nor a school’s standing within the district or state has any bearing upon selection for the assessment. Because NAEP does not report scores for individual schools or their students, there should be no internal pressure to select certain students or schools for assessment.

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Does my child have to take NAEP?

No. Unlike your state's assessment, which is mandatory for students, NAEP is voluntary. However, your child was selected as a representative for hundreds of students within your state. If all selected students participate, NAEP provides a very accurate measurement of your state's overall composition and achievement. Please note however, that in some states, all state testing, including NAEP, is mandatory.

Will taking NAEP affect my child's grade?

No. NAEP does not calculate scores for individual students, so neither the government nor your child's school or teacher will ever know how your child performed on NAEP.

Will I get to see the results of my child's test?

No. There are no individual student results. However, if you would like to explore the results for students in various subjects, check out the wide variety of NAEP data tools—including State Profiles—that allow you to view the NAEP results from many different angles.

How long does the assessment take?

Students spend up to 90 minutes participating in the administration of most NAEP assessments. This includes setting up, taking the assessment (up to 60 minutes), and getting back to instructional activities. Some specialized assessments, such as hands-on science tasks or computer-based assessments, may require up to 120 minutes from beginning to end.

There is no penalty for not completing the assessment in the time permitted. A student may stop taking the assessment or omit questions at any point.

Will my child's teacher spend class time helping students get for NAEP?

No. Special preparation for NAEP is not necessary or expected. The material in the assessment was carefully designed to encompass those topics that should already be a part of the general curriculum for grades 4, 8, and 12. Since many states have linked their content standards to NAEP, some teachers may use materials from NAEP to support instruction of their state curriculum.

Where can I see the test my child will take?

Booklets containing sample test questions and all survey questions are available on the NAEP website. In addition, more than two thousand released NAEP questions are online in the easy to use NAEP Questions Tool.

These sources provide you with a very good picture of the assessment that your child may take. However, you may arrange to see the actual test questions on this year's assessment in a secure location. To view assessment questions that have not yet been made public, please contact your NAEP State Coordinator, whose name can be found through your state's profile, or send a written request to the National Assessment Governing Board either by e-mailing or by mailing to

National Assessment Governing Board
800 North Capitol Street, N.W., Suite 825
Washington, D.C. 20002-4233.

May my child with disabilities participate in NAEP if her IEP doesn't specifically address NAEP?

The decision to include students with disabilities in NAEP assessments is made by school personnel, who decide whether students can meaningfully be assessed with or without accommodations based on information in a student's Individualized Education Program (IEP). Generally, children who are included in the state or local testing program are included in NAEP, if they are selected.

Students with special needs use the same accommodations in NAEP assessments that they use in their usual classroom testing, with very few exceptions.

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Will my child be able to take NAEP if English is not my child's first language?

Probably.NAEP needs to be as inclusive as possible. The decision to include English language learners in NAEP is made by school personnel, who decide whether students can meaningfully be assessed with or without accommodations. Generally, if your child is able to participate in state and local tests, he or she will be able to take NAEP.

Accommodations may be allowed. One of the most common accommodations for students classified as English language learners (ELL) is extended time to answer assessment questions. If you would like to have additional information about NAEP, please visit the website If you have questions or would like to review a booklet that includes sample subject area and student questions, please contact your school's principal.

May my child take NAEP if he or she was not selected?

No. Through a careful process, NAEP selects the smallest number of students possible that are needed to represent your state and the nation fairly and accurately. This procedure minimizes the expenditure of time and effort by participants and administrators, while still allowing NAEP to obtain an accurate and useful measure of student performance.

Where can I get additional information?

If you are looking for information that you have not been able to find on this website, or on The Nation's Report Card, submit a question or comment to us via Contact NAEP. On the Contact NAEP page, you will also find directions that will guide you to answers to commonly asked questions.

What if I want to make suggestions about the assessment?

Your suggestions are welcomed because they help us improve NAEP to better serve the children and teachers who give their time in taking the tests. Your questions also help NAEP provide the best information possible to state education leaders, the U.S. Department of Education, and Congress. Your comments can be made through Contact NAEP.

We hope that these resources will address any questions or concerns you may have. If, however, you do not feel that your concerns have been adequately resolved, you may file a formal complaint by writing to the National Assessment Governing Board. Send email to or mail the National Assessment Governing Board at

National Assessment Governing Board
800 North Capitol Street, N.W., Suite 825
Washington, D.C. 20002-4233.

Include a description of your complaint, along with your name and your mailing address. The National Assessment Governing Board will send you a letter in the mail acknowledging receipt of your complaint. It will then be considered through a formal review process. At the conclusion of this process, you will be sent a written response by mail.

Last updated 29 March 2018 (DS)