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Peggy G. Carr, Ph.D.
Commissioner of the National Center for Education Statistics

Statement of National Center for Education Statistics Commissioner Peggy G. Carr on A Pragmatic Future for NAEP, a National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine report

I thank the National Academies (NASEM) for its work on this report and appreciate that many of its recommendations aligned so well with work already underway in the NAEP program. The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) worked collaboratively with its parent organization, the Institute of Education Sciences (IES), to ensure that this work, commissioned in celebration of IES’s 20-year anniversary, was relevant to NAEP’s maintenance of its status as the gold standard of large-scale assessments.

This NASEM report is the latest in a series of expert reports on various aspects of the NAEP program commissioned by NCES over the past several decades. In addition to this kind of external report, we receive constant feedback and input from an extraordinary group of technical panels and experts—both standing panels and ad hoc, special expert panels—to protect the integrity of NAEP and consider innovations in the assessment. This input has guided the program at critical moments in its history, and we gladly add this new panel of experts to our long list of distinguished advisors.

In general, the report is reassuring, in that most of the recommendations concerning modernization speak to many of the innovations that we have been working on for a number of years now—innovations in various stages of planning, testing, and piloting that we sped up in response to the onset of the pandemic.

Of particular note is the set of recommendations to improve clarity around NAEP costs. We agree that the NAEP program is large and complex and, not surprisingly, this is reflected in its costing structure. This may be why the panel’s estimates of the program’s actual costs are admittedly incomplete, and, in some cases, inaccurate. A program as large as NAEP should have its cost structures studied regularly to identify ways to improve. This is truer than ever considering rapidly evolving technologies. To this end, the NAEP program is considering commissioning an independent cost analysis of its costing structure to identify best practices and design and process efficiencies as we continue to build a more cost-efficient NAEP, with state-of-the-art technologies and preservation of NAEP’s valuable trend lines.

A second key set of recommendations concerns evaluation of NAEP’s innovative eNAEP digital assessment platform—it’s now how we deliver the test to America’s students. There will be a lot at stake when the next generation of eNAEP goes online, including the transition to a device-agnostic assessment and, eventually, implementation of an adaptive test instrument. It will be critically important to ensure maximum operational success in the field as we phase in these innovations and work more closely with schools and districts to use their own devices in administering NAEP. These will be exciting milestones for NAEP. Also, I am setting up a standing independent panel of qualified experts to support the ongoing evaluation of eNAEP and the sharing of digital platform information with local and state stakeholders. This panel will include representatives from Google and IBM—who are already advising the program—as well as others specializing in the technological infrastructure of complex large-scale assessments. Technologies will keep advancing, and NAEP will need the best in the field supporting our internal enterprise IT professionals if we are to stay ahead of the game.

We are still taking it all in. We expect this to be the start of a dialogue with the distinguished panel assembled by NASEM. My team at NCES, the leadership and members of the Governing Board, and our colleagues on staff at NAGB, led by Executive Director Lesley Muldoon, will continue to work collaboratively to ensure NAEP’s stature as a world leader in large-scale assessment—the Nation’s Report Card.