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The NAEP Database → Creation of the Database → Creating the Meta Data and File Documentation

Creating the Meta Data and File Documentation

A critical part of any database is its processing control and descriptive information. Having a central repository for this information, which may be accessed by all analysis and reporting programs, will provide correct parameters for processing the data fields and consistent labeling for identifying the results of the analyses. The NAEP master catalog file was designed and constructed to serve these purposes for the NAEP database.

Each record of the master catalog contains the processing (e.g., response options), labeling, classification (e.g., content), and location information for each assessment exercise and other data variables in the NAEP database. The control parameters are used by the access routines in the analysis programs to define the manner in which the data values are to be transformed and processed.

Each data variable has a 50-character label in the master catalog describing the contents of the variable and, where applicable, the source of the variable. The variables with discrete or categorical response values (e.g., multiple-choice items and professionally scored items, but not weight variables) have additional label fields in the catalog containing 8- and 20-character labels for those response values. These short labels can be used for reporting purposes as a concise description of the responses for these discrete items.

The master catalog record contains distinct fields that correspond to predefined classification categories. Using the NAEP 2000 reading assessment as an illustration, the classification categories corresponded to those fixed in the development of the reading framework. Each value in the classification field specified which of the following purposes or stance for reading was assigned to the record, for example:

NAEP 2000 grade 4 reading file layout
Start and end column Field width Field type A/N1 Field description
107-107 1 N Reading classification: purpose2
  1=Reading for literary experience
  2=Reading to gain information
108-108 1 N Reading classification: stance
  1=Forming an initial understanding
  2=Developing an interpretation
  3=Personal reflection and response
  4=Demonstrating a critical stance
1 A=alpha; N=numeric.
2 "Reading to perform a task" is not assessed at grade 4.
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences, National Center for Education Statistics, National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP).

A nonblank value in field 107 or 108 indicated the classification code for the record. This classification code permits the grouping of identically classified items by performing a selection process on one or more classification fields in the master catalog. This master catalog serves as the documentation foundation for the NAEP Data Explorer and the data products provided to licensed secondary users.

According to NAEP design, it is possible for assessment exercises to appear in more than one student sample and in more than one block of exercises within each sample. The location fields of the catalog record contain age cohort, block, and, where applicable, the order within the block for each appearance of the assessment exercise.

The master catalog file is constructed concurrently with the collection and transcription of the national and state assessment data so that it is ready for use by analysis programs when the database is created. As new data fields are derived and added to the database, their corresponding descriptive and control information are entered into the master catalog.

Last updated 22 January 2010 (GF)

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