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What Does the NAEP Writing Assessment Measure?

Students participating in the 2011 NAEP computer-based writing assessment responded to tasks designed to measure one of three communicative purposes common to many typical writing situations:

  • 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.
  • To convey experience (real or imagined), in order to communicate individual and imagined experiences to others.

The 2011 assessment was the first NAEP computer-based writing assessment and was developed under a new NAEP Writing Framework PDF File (3.2 MB) that recognizes the significant role that computers play in the writing process, as well as the prevalence of computer technology in the lives of students and the increasing role of computers in learning activities. The framework was developed under the guidance of the National Assessment Governing Board, which oversees the development of all NAEP frameworks. The frameworks describe the specific knowledge and skills to be assessed.

The assessment included 22 writing tasks at grade 8 and 22 tasks at grade 12. Writing tasks were presented to students in a variety of ways, including text, audio, photographs, video, or animation on the computer. Students composed their responses on laptop computers. Each student at grade 8 and at grade 12 was given a handout to help them prepare. Read Ideas for Planning and Reviewing Your Writing, at grade 8 PDF File (1.2 MB) and grade 12 PDF File (1.2 MB). Explore the writing tasks and student responses in the NAEP Questions Tool.

Students were randomly assigned two writing tasks and had 30 minutes to complete each of the tasks. Before being presented with the first task, students were shown a tutorial to familiarize them with the way material is presented on the computer screen and show them how to use the custom-developed software program provided in the assessment. Students completed their writing tasks on laptop computers provided by NAEP, using software similar to common word-processing programs. They were able to use some standard tools for editing, formatting, and viewing text, but did not have access to potentially irrelevant or distracting tools such as clip art, font type and color, or the Internet.

See the distribution of questions in the 2011 assessment.

Sample Questions booklets for the writing assessment are available for download. The booklets are given to participating schools so that administrators and teachers will have an idea of what to expect during an assessment

For more detailed information about the objectives of the writing assessment, explore the NAEP Writing Framework PDF File (3.2 B).

Last updated 16 June 2016 (TO)