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REPORTING DISTRICT-LEVEL NAEP DATA: SUMMARY OF A WORKSHOP APPENDIX B Background Information on NAEP The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) has been assessing students across the country since 1969, providing valuable information about students’ performance in various content domains. Results of the national assessment, frequently called “the nation’s report card,” were presented annually from 1969 to 1979. Since 1980, national NAEP has been administered every two years, with the implementation of a state-level NAEP system in 1990. PURPOSES Since its beginning, NAEP has served as a barometer of student academic performance across the country. It provides data on trends in the academic performance of elementary, middle, and secondary students in key subject areas and has proven to be a unique source of background information that has both informed and guided educational policy. NAEP results have the credence and power to inform and guide educational policy largely due to the integrity with which NAEP is viewed. The results are used to (National Research Council 1999a: 27): describe the status of the education system, describe the performance of students in different demographic groups,
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REPORTING DISTRICT-LEVEL NAEP DATA: SUMMARY OF A WORKSHOP identify the knowledge and skills over which students have (or do not have) mastery, support judgments about the adequacy of observed performance, argue the success or failure of instructional content and strategies, discuss relationships among achievement and school and family variables, reinforce the call for high academic standards and education reform, and argue for system and school accountability. NAEP is considered by education stakeholders at various local, state, and national levels to be the national benchmark1 of both content and performance standards and to provide valuable information for national and state comparisons. For each of the content areas, NAGB has developed an organizing framework. The NAEP frameworks —derived from a national consensus process that includes educators, policy makers, practitioners, and scholars in the respective fields —denote the broadly accepted content standards that students in fourth, eighth, and twelfth grades should seek to attain. The released items give examples of the kind of questions and level of content knowledge assessed at each grade. INDICATORS OF ACHIEVEMENT NAEP assesses a vast array of content areas. Due to the many content areas and the need to limit the length of the testing time, a matrix sampling design is used to obtain a representative sample of students taking each subject-area assessment. Under this design, blocks of items within each content domain are administered to groups of students, making it possible to administer a large number and range of items during a relatively brief testing period. Consequently, each student takes only a few items in a content domain. As a result, the performance of any particular student cannot be accurately measured, preventing achievement scores for individual students from being available. NAEP, thus, reports only group-level results. NAEP subject-matter achievement is reported through scale scores. 1 “Benchmarking” means measuring one’s own practices against those of others, and, in this context, refers to the practice of comparing local or state-level test results against those derived from national indicators.
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REPORTING DISTRICT-LEVEL NAEP DATA: SUMMARY OF A WORKSHOP Scale scores summarize student performance (on a scale of 0-500) in a given subject area for the nation as a whole and for subsets of the population based on demographic and background characteristics. Results are tabulated over time to provide trend information. Academic achievement is also summarized using performance standards, or achievement levels. NAGB has established policy definitions for three levels of student achievement—basic, proficient, and advanced (U.S. Department of Education, 1997). The achievement levels denote the range of performance established for each grade and describe the levels of knowledge demonstrated by students: Basic: partial mastery of prerequisite knowledge and skills that are fundamental for proficient work at each grade. Proficient: solid academic performance for each grade assessed. Students reaching this level have demonstrated competency over challenging subject matter, including subject-matter knowledge, application of such knowledge to real-world situations, and analytical skills appropriate to the subject matter. Advanced: superior performance. There is also a fourth level of student achievement, “below-basic,” for which no description is provided. BACKGROUND, CONTEXTUAL, AND ENVIRONMENTAL INFORMATION NAEP collects a variety of demographic, background, and contextual information on students, teachers, and administrators. Student demographic information, such as race/ethnicity, gender, and highest level of parental education, are available. As stated above, NAEP summarizes results by certain demographic and educational characteristics. Contextual and environmental data collected during NAEP administrations provides information in such areas as students’ course selection, homework habits, use of textbooks and computers, and communication with parents about schoolwork. Information obtained about teachers pertains to such areas as the kind of training, number of years teaching, and instructional practices. Administrators also respond to questions about their schools, including the location and type of school, school enrollment numbers, and levels of parental involvement.
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