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What does the “Nation’s Report Card” tell us about how American children are learning?

Assessing American children's educational progress with NAEP

Challenge

What do American students know, what can they do in various subject areas, and ultimately, will they have the academic knowledge and experience to be able to compete globally? These questions prompted Congress in 1969 to mandate the creation of the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), administered by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) of the U.S. Department of Education (ED). Often called “the Nation’s Report Card,” NAEP is the only continuing, nationally representative assessment of U.S. students’ educational achievements in various subject areas.

Solution

Conducting NAEP called for a research company with extensive statistical expertise, high-functioning data collection capabilities, experience working well with school decisionmakers, and the ability to create meaningful representative sampling and analysis procedures, and efficiently collect high-quality data for thousands of students across the nation. The company would also need to employ its creative thinkers to develop innovative tools and processes that would streamline the sampling, data collection, and quality assurance processes. Westat was first selected to perform NAEP Sampling and Data Collection (SDC) activities in 1983—work that it continues to this day.

In 2002, the role of NAEP was expanded when Congress required states to participate in biennial reading and mathematics assessments at grades 4 and 8. To support this expansion, ED created what is currently known as the NAEP Support and Service Center (NSSC) to provide training and support to NAEP State Coordinators (employees of state education agencies) and NAEP Trial Urban District Assessment Coordinators (employees of select large urban school districts for which NAEP results are reported). Westat has held the NSSC contract since 2003, providing training and support that ensures that the NAEP Coordinators can complete the responsibilities for the successful implementation of their required activities for NAEP in their respective states and districts.

Results

Westat is privileged to work on NAEP in support of NCES because NAEP provides the critical knowledge policymakers and educators need to shape educational policy and program decisions and improve education for all students. NAEP serves as a common measure of children’s learning across racial/ethnic groups, economic statuses, and regions, and gives parents, educators, administrators, and officials meaningful insight into achievement gaps and educational experiences.

NAEP reports statistically significant findings that compare proficiency standards across state assessments; develops insights about student performance from high school transcripts; and offers an in-depth view at how different demographic groups perform across different types of schools.

Greg Binzer, Vice President and Sector Lead, Survey Research

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