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The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) writing assessment measures how well America’s students can write—one of the most important skills that students acquire and develop during K-12 schooling. Since 2011, students participating in NAEP writing assessments have been required to compose and type their responses on a digital writing device. In 2011, students at grades 8 and 12 completed the assessment on laptops. In 2017, students at grades 4 and 8 used tablets to record their responses to NAEP writing assessment tasks.

Explore the Nation's Report Card

Preliminary analyses of students’ writing performance in the 2017 NAEP writing assessments at grades 4 and 8 revealed potentially confounding factors in measuring performance.

Assessment Content

The 2011 writing assessment was the first NAEP writing computer-based assessment (WCBA) and was developed under a new framework assessing writing. This framework recognizes the significant role that computers play in the writing process and organizes writing content into three communication categories: to persuade, in order to change the reader’s point of view or affect the reader’s action; to explain, in order to expand the reader’s understanding; and to convey experience (real or imagined), in order to communicate individual and imagined experiences to others. The framework also outlines what writing knowledge and skills students should have to reach Basic, Proficient, and Advanced achievement. The assessment is administered as a digitally based assessment. Survey questionnaires, administered to students, teachers, and school administrators who participate in a writing assessment, are used to collect and report contextual information about students’ K-12 education and learning experience in and out of the classroom.

Icons representing each NAEP assessment subject in arts, civics, economics, geography, reading, mathematics, technology and engineering literacy, science, U.S. history, and writing.

How is Your State or District Performing?

State Performance In 2007, in addition to assessing a national sample of students, NAEP examined the writing performance of eighth-grade students in 45 states and the Department of Defense Education Activity schools. See snapshots of individual state performance in 2007 writing, and use the State Profiles tool to compare results of states/jurisdictions.
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District Performance See snapshots of select urban district performance in 2007 writing, and use the District Profiles tool to compare results of states/jurisdictions.

How Results Are Reported

Academic achievement in writing is presented in two ways on The Nation's Report Card: scale scores and NAEP achievement levels.

  • Scale scores represent how students performed on the writing assessment. Scores are aggregated and reported for diverse student groups for the nation, states, and districts.
  • NAEP achievement levels are performance standards that describe what students should know and be able to do.

Results are reported as percentages of students performing at or above three NAEP achievement levels (NAEP Basic, NAEP Proficient, and NAEP Advanced). Students performing at or above the NAEP Proficient level on NAEP assessments demonstrate solid academic performance and competency over challenging subject matter. It should be noted that the NAEP Proficient achievement level does not represent grade level proficiency as determined by other assessment standards (e.g., state or district assessments).

Item maps illustrate how specific writing knowledge and skills correspond to different NAEP achievement levels. Item maps answer the question, "What does it mean for students to be at NAEP Basic, NAEP Proficient, or NAEP Advanced in terms of what they know and can do?"

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Last updated 22 April 2024 (DS)