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​​NAEP Technical DocumentationNAEP Instruments


Development of NAEP Frameworks

Cognitive Items and Instruments

Contextual Items (Survey Questionnaires)

Accommodations for Students With Special Needs

Each National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) assessment is built around an organizing framework, which is the blueprint that guides the development of the cognitive assessment items and determines the content to be assessed. The National Assessment Governing Board (the Governing Board) oversees the creation of the NAEP frameworks, while the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) oversees the development of the cognitive items, scoring rubrics, and contextual items (survey questionnaires). The instruments created for each assessment consist of two major components:

  • subject-specific cognitive items, which measure the achievement of students across a broad range of academic subjects (see Assessments for more information); and
  • contextual items, which collect information from students, teachers, and school administrators about key factors that are related to student achievement.

The Governing Board and NCES begin with a developmental process for the cognitive items and continue with extensive reviews by multiple groups. The Governing Board also oversees the development of the content framework and item specifications for contextual items. NCES oversees the development of the contextual items through a process similar to that used for developing the cognitive items. The process includes reviews by external advisory groups and field testing. Information from responses to these questions gives context to NAEP results and allows researchers to examine factors associated with academic achievement.

Transition to digitally based assessments

NCES is utilizing established best practices for NAEP to remain at the forefront of innovation and a leader in large-scale assessments. To address the increased role of technology in classrooms, NCES is transitioning NAEP from paper-based to digitally based assessments. NCES has been exploring the transition to digital administration since the late 1990s including the investigation of new testing methods and question types that reflect the growing use of technology in education. A variety of new question and task types have been administered in the NAEP assessments to capture student achievement (what students know and are able to do) in more authentic or direct ways, including scenario-based tasks in the technology ​and engineering literacy (TEL) assessment, as well as interactive computer tasks, and hybrid hands-on tasks in the science assessment. In 2017, the NAEP program officially transitioned from paper-based assessments (PBAs) to digitally based assessments (DBAs) in mathematics and reading. The successful launch of the 2017 digitally based mathematics and reading operational assessments was the result of a multi-year transition process. See Digitally Based Assessments for more information about the transition from paper to digital technology.

Last updated 18 April 2024 (PG)