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Writing

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.

Preliminary analyses of students’ writing performance in the 2017 NAEP writing assessments at grades 4 and 8 revealed potentially confounding factors in measuring performance. Therefore, NCES is conducting additional analyses. NCES plans to release a special report on the 2017 NAEP writing assessment. The report is expected to be released in the summer of 2020.

2017 Writing

Assessment Content

The 2011 writing assessment was the first NAEP writing computer-based assessment (WCBA) and was developed under a new framework. 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.  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’ learning experience in and out of the classroom.

How is Your State or District Performing?

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, as well as in 10 urban districts. See snapshots of individual state and district performance in 2007 writing:

How Writing Results are Reported

Student performance on the NAEP writing assessment is presented in two ways: scale scores and achievement levels.

  • Scale scores represent the average performance of students who took the writing assessment. Scores are aggregated and reported for the nation, states, and districts as well as and groups of students based on gender, race/ethnicity, etc.
  • 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 achievement levels (e.g., Basic, Proficient, and Advanced) that are defined in the assessment framework. Students performing at or above the Proficient level on NAEP assessments demonstrate solid academic performance and competency over challenging subject matter. Note 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 assessment questions were likely to be answered correctly by students performing at the Basic, Proficient, and Advanced achievement levels?”

How To Interpret Writing Results

Find out how to interpret the results of the writing assessment, including the potential effects of exclusion on assessment results.

Learn More

Last updated 19 June 2019 (AA)