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News from the National Academies
Date: Sept. 24, 1998
Contacts: Dan Quinn, Media Relations Officer
Kristen Nye, Media Relations Assistant
(202) 334-2138; e-mail <>


Publication Announcement

Nation's 'Report Card' Should Be Changed
To Provide More Complete Picture of U.S. Education

For nearly 30 years, the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) has provided the only continuing measure of American student achievement. Its uses have expanded greatly in recent years. Currently, educators and policy-makers seek to use scores from NAEP to justify education reform, to check the results of state tests and other testing programs, and to compare student achievement among states and other countries.

To satisfy these demands, the NAEP program has taken on new and sometimes conflicting objectives, without changing the assessment's basic features. As a result, it has become overly complex, says a new congressionally mandated report from a committee of the National Research Council. The report recommends ways to refocus and streamline NAEP over the next decade.

To meet the need for better information about why students perform as they do, NAEP should be linked with other educational data so that test results are just one in a series of measurements which, taken together, provide a broad view of trends in education. The U.S. Department of Education should integrate NAEP data with information on classroom practices, teacher preparation, educational resources, academic standards, and other factors. Such data would enable users to better understand NAEP results and their potential implications for educational policy.

The department should streamline NAEP by reducing the number of separate surveys that are currently used to measure short- and long-term trends. It also should change the ways in which NAEP measures student achievement. The current system -- which relies largely on tests with paper and pencil -- should be augmented with new alternative assessment methods, including portfolios and other samples of student performance, computer-based analyses of student work, and videotaped observations of students working in the classroom. Such methods are needed to assess the kinds of investigative, problem-solving, communication, and technological skills that will be necessary in the students' future. And these assessment methods will help the department increase the participation in NAEP of students with special learning and language needs, a population that has been neglected in the past.

The National Assessment Governing Board, which oversees NAEP, should overhaul the way they develop the standards against which students' scores are compared. Such standards allow administrators to determine how many students are at or above basic, proficient, or advanced levels of performance. The current system for developing these standards is too complex and has been inconsistently applied, leading to results that are implausible when compared to other testing information, the report says.

A committee roster follows. The study was funded by the U.S. Department of Education. The National Research Council -- the principal operating arm of the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering -- is a private, non-profit organization that provides advice on science and technology.

Read the full text of Grading the Nation's Report Card: Evaluating NAEP and Transforming the Assessment of Educational Progressfor free on the Web, as well as more than 1,800 other publications from the National Academies. Printed copies are available for purchase from the National Academy Press Web siteor at the mailing address in the letterhead; tel. (202) 334-3313 or 1-800-624-6242. Reporters may obtain a pre-publication copy from the Office of News and Public Information at the letterhead address (contacts listed above).

Commission on Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education
Board on Testing and Assessment

Committee on the Evaluation of National and State Assessments of Educational Progress
        James W. Pellegrino (chair)
        Peabody College of Education and Human Development; and
        Frank W. Mayborn Professor of Cognitive Studies
        Learning Technology Center
        Vanderbilt University
        Nashville, Tenn.

        Gail Baxter
        Research Scientist
        Educational Testing Service
        Princeton, N.J.

        Norman M. Bradburn
        Senior Vice President for Research
        National Opinion Research Center
        University of Chicago

        Thomas P. Carpenter
        Professor of Curriculum and Instruction
        University of Wisconsin

        Allan Collins
        Principal Scientist
        Bolt Beranek and Newman Inc.
        Cambridge, Mass.

        Pasquale J. Devito
        Director, Office of Assessment and Information Services
        Rhode Island Department of Education

        Stephen B. Dunbar
        Professor of Educational Measurement and Statistics
        College of Education
        University of Iowa
        Iowa City

        Larry V. Hedges
        Stella M. Rowley Professor of Education and the Social Sciences
        Department of Education
        University of Chicago

        Sharon Lewis
        Director of Research
        Council of the Great City Schools
        Washington, D.C.

        Roderick J.A. Little
        Professor and Chairman
        Department of Biostatistics
        University of Michigan
        Ann Arbor

        Elsie G.J. Moore
        Associate Professor and Academic Program Coordinator
        Life-Span Developmental Psychology
        College of Education
        Arizona State University

        Nambury S. Reju
        Distinguished Professor and Director, Center for Research and Service
        Institute of Psychology
        Illinois Institute of Technology

        Marlene Scardamalia
        Centre for Applied Cognitive Science; and
        Department of Measurement, Evaluation, and Computer Applications
        CACS/Ontario Institute for Studies in Education

        Guadalupe Valdes
        School of Education and Department of Spanish and Portuguese
        Stanford University
        Palo Alto, Calif.

        Sheila W. Valencia
        Associate Professor of Curriculum and Instruction
        Literacy Education
        College of Education
        University of Washington

        Lauress L. Wise
        Human Resources Research Organization
        Alexandria, Va.


        Lee R. Jones
        Study Director