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NAEP Technical DocumentationMathematics Achievement Levels

The process of developing achievement levels involves the judgments of informed, well-qualified people from throughout the nation and its territories. Approximately 20 persons served on each of three grade level panels to develop NAEP mathematics achievement levels. These 60 people included teachers (about 55 percent), other educators (about 15 percent), and members of the general public (about 30 percent). To the extent possible, the panels were proportionally representative of the nation's population with respect to region, race/ethnicity, and gender.

The panels for mathematics were convened in March 1992, and the National Assessment Governing Board set the NAEP mathematics achievement levels in September 1992. The achievement levels set for the mathematics assessment were used in reporting results for the 1992 assessment and subsequent assessments.

At the November 2001 meeting of the Board, a revised framework for the NAEP mathematics assessment was adopted. Changes at grades 4 and 8 were minor, so that the scales used to report the results for those grade levels from 1992 to 2003 were used again in the next mathematics assessment in 2005. At grade 12, however, changes that were more extensive were made. Because of this and the resulting changes in the questions developed for grade 12, a new scale was developed for the 2005 assessment. As a result, the Board developed new achievement levels for the grade 12 mathematics assessment in 2005.

In the spring of 2004, a large-scale field test of the new 2005 grade 12 mathematics assessment was conducted on a nationally representative sample of students. The 2005 scale was developed from the resulting data, and the Board developed new achievement levels for this assessment using these field test data. The revised framework and test specifications for grade 12 mathematics focused on developing a more challenging grade twelve assessment. The intent was to increase the level of mathematics content measured by NAEP at grade 12 based on state standards and international measures. These achievement levels will be used until the Board determines that a new framework is needed to guide the development of the assessment. At that time, new achievement levels may be developed and set.

A complete description of the mathematics achievement levels for grades 4, 8, and 12 is available at

NOTE: As provided by law, the achievement levels are to be used on a trial basis and should be interpreted with caution. However, both NCES and the Board believe that these performance standards are useful for understanding trends in student achievement.

Last updated 02 July 2014 (GF)