Media Advisory: Examining the Utility of Achievement Levels for the ‘Nation’s Report Card’ — New Report


The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), often referred to as the Nation’s Report Card, is an assessment given periodically to representative groups of fourth-, eighth-, and 12th-grade students across the United States.  The results of these assessments, which report on a variety of subjects, are used to inform policymakers, educators, and the public on the educational progress of the nation as a whole.  For the past 24 years, NAEP “achievement levels” for each subject area and grade – basic, proficient, and advanced – have been used to report students’ performance.  However, questions about the validity and usefulness of these categories have persisted. 


A new report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine finds that while the NAEP achievement levels for reading and math can be a useful reporting tool, they are susceptible to misinterpretation and misuse.  The committee that conducted the study and wrote the report said that users of NAEP data need more guidance on the interpretations and use of achievement levels.


NAEP needs to provide additional concrete, easily understood examples of what students who score at the basic, proficient, or advanced levels know and can do, the report says.  Research is needed to define the achievement levels in terms of meaningful real-world concerns, such as readiness for high school, college, or the workplace, and global competitiveness to make the results more useful. 



The report, Evaluation of the Achievement Levels for Mathematics and Reading on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, is available for immediate release.  To obtain a copy or to schedule an interview with a member of the committee, reporters should contact the Office of News and Public Information; tel. 202-334-2138 or email