Since 1969, the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) has been providing policymakers, educators, and the public with reports on the academic performance and progress of the nation’s students. Over the years, NAEP has been updated in ways that kept it current with the ever-changing educational and policy context, but maintained the trend lines it was designed to track. By the late 1980’s, there were concerns about the extent to which U.S. students were learning what they need to be globally competitive in the 21st century. There were calls to set high, world-class achievement goals for U.S. students. In response, NAEP adopted standards-based reporting for the subjects and grades it assessed. Since 1992, NAEP results have been reported in relation to three achievement levels: basic, proficient, and advanced. However, the use of achievement levels has provoked controversy and disagreement, and evaluators have identified numerous concerns. This report evaluates the NAEP student achievement levels in reading and mathematics in grades 4, 8, and 12 to determine whether the achievement levels are reasonable, reliable, valid, and informative to the public, and recommends ways that the setting and use of achievement levels can be improved.
Sponsor: U.S. Department of Education