Nation's Report Card Downsizing

The "Nation's report card" is getting a makeover. The board that manages the National Assessment of Educational Progress released an updated NAEP assessment schedule in July that covers next decade. Among the revisions, according to reporting by Education Week, are a more efficient design that would require participation by fewer schools and students, the elimination of some assessments and cancellation of expansion plans for other tests.

NAEP testing is done in grades 4, 8 and 12 and is the only set of assessments that allow for state comparisons. The downsizing of the testing population would reduce the number of schools that participate in the assessments by 2,000 and the number of students by a third.

However, explained Education Week, while the number of test-takers would shrink, the time taken for testing by each participant would grow. Previously, students sat for two 30-minute tests in a given subject as well as another 30 minutes for instructions and a background survey. In the future, each test-taker would sit through three 30-minutes tests in two subjects, such as reading and math, civics and history or science and technology, as well as the additional 30 minutes for instruction and background information.

Currently, NAEP includes assessments in 10 subjects. Some of the exams, by law, are given every two years; math and reading fall into this category. Others are given every four years, such as science and U.S. History. A few have been considered "voluntary," taking place when funding permitted.

Tests that have been eliminated from the schedule are arts, geography and economics. And the brakes are being applied to planned expansions of assessments in foreign language and technology and engineering literacy. Arts and economics have only been tested two times in the last 30 years, according to Education Week, and geography has been tested four times.

Also, as of 2024, all of the subjects covered by NAEP exams will be tested online rather than with paper and pencil. The hope is to glean insight into the processes that students use to arrive at their answers.

One organization that has expressed displeasure in the board's decision to discard arts testing was the National Endowments for the Arts, which said the NAEP data offered a view of the "fundamental issues of access and equity" for arts programs in schools. To soften the blow, the board said that some of the questions regarding arts participation and availability could be integrated into the background data collected from students during the assessment process.

Likewise, the National Council for the Social Studies was disappointed at the loss of economics and geography but heartened by plans to give a more regular schedule to civics and history tests.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.