NAEP Data in Focus: Examining the Research

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The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), led by the National Center for Education Statistics within the Institute of Education Sciences, is the only nationally representative and continuing assessment of what America's students know and can do in various subject areas. AIR informs the NAEP program and the research community through our work, NAEP Data in Focus.

The NAEP Data in Focus working papers combine AIR’s expertise and experience not only with NAEP, but with other large-scale assessments and survey-based longitudinal studies. The papers are made available to researchers and the public.

NAEP is the largest nationally representative and continuing assessment of what America's students know and can do in various subject areas. Data from NAEP—the “Nation’s Report Card”—can provide insights into a wide range of topics, such as understanding the relationship between students' familiarity with computers and their performance, how NAEP mathematics assessments compare with international assessments, and comparisons of NAEP variables to those used in longitudinal studies.

AIR-NAEP researchers are experts in educational research, psychometrics, and statistics, and have been commissioned by the National Center for Education Statistics, which oversees all NAEP work, to provide expert advice and technical assistance on specific issues related to NAEP. This resource will be updated regularly with the latest AIR papers and work examining NAEP data.

AIR-NAEP Working Papers




Access to Civics Content and Evidence-Based Instructional Approaches in U.S. Schools

Using data from the 2018 NAEP grade 8 civics assessment, this study investigates disparities in access to civics content and effective instructional approaches, highlighting disparities along a range of dimensions including student, school, and state characteristics. The findings conflict with most of the prior evidence regarding disparities, showing higher reported access for Black students, Hispanic students, and students of relatively lower socio-economic background.

Projecting NAEP Proficient Levels to TIMSS Countries

This paper presents the results of a study that linked scale scores from the 2019 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) and the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) to compare grade 8 performance in science and mathematics in the United States and TIMSS countries, using the NAEP Proficient standard as the measure.

Motivation, NAEP Performance, and Choice of a STEM Major: The Role of Domain-Specific Academic Identity, Self-Efficacy, and Interest: A Synthesis Report

The AIR National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) research team has conducted four studies focused on relating student motivational variables to NAEP achievement in reading, mathematics, and science across different grade levels in three of the studies and exploring its relationship to students’ choice of a science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) major in college in the fourth study. The current summary report provides a synthesis of these four NAEP studies focused on motivation.

The Relationship of Science Motivation with Science Achievement: Evidence from the NAEP 2015 Science Assessment

Using 2015 grade 8 NAEP science data, this study aims to understand the role that science motivation plays in middle school science achievement using a hierarchical linear modeling approach. The results indicated that both science self-efficacy and science interest as measures of science motivation were significant positive predictors of science achievement after controlling for student background and other variables with self-efficacy having the larger effect of the two.

Updated College Enrollment Benchmarks for the Grade 12 NAEP Mathematics Assessment

This study extended an earlier investigation of college preparedness based on NAEP grade 12 mathematics data from the prediction of college enrollment alone to the prediction of additional postsecondary outcomes, including remedial course-taking and first-year college GPA based on postsecondary transcript data. The report shows the probability of college preparedness (under various definitions) at each NAEP achievement level, thereby also providing important validity information for these NAEP achievement levels.

Proposal for a NAEP SES Index: Background, Findings, and Remaining Challenges

In this report AIR proposes an SES index for NAEP comprised of four existing NAEP variables. The results show that the NAEP SES index performs better than the current proxy—NSLP eligibility—in explaining performance variation and racial/ethnic score gaps in NAEP, as well as performing better than similar SES indices in other large-scale surveys administered in the United States. In addition, the index functions similarly for each major racial/ethnic subgroup.

Early Reading Skill Development and Characteristics of Reading Skill Profiles: Analysis of Early Childhood Longitudinal Study

By utilizing two nationally representative datasets (Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, Kindergarten Class of 2010-11 [ECLS-K:2011] and NAEP 2015 grade 4 reading assessment data), this study (a) examined the unique development patterns of early reading skills, (b) identified the reading skill profiles of students who are struggling or at-risk for reading difficulties in fourth grade, and (c) examined the relationship between early reading development patterns and NAEP grade 4 reading performance.



College Enrollment Benchmarks for the NAEP Grade 12 Mathematics Assessment

Using data from High School Longitudinal Study of 2009 and the 2013 NAEP overlap sample, this study identifies college preparedness benchmarks on the Grade 12 NAEP mathematics assessment including college enrollment, selectivity of the college enrolled, remedial course-taking, enrolling in STEM major, and persistence in postsecondary education. Results provide validity evidence for the NAEP achievement levels in terms of college preparedness, especially the NAEP proficient and NAEP college preparedness indicator.

Mathematics Motivation and its Relationship with Mathematics Performance: Evidence from the National Assessment for Educational Progress-High School Longitudinal Study of 2019 Overlap Sample

This study investigates how mathematics motivation (mathematics identity, mathematics self-efficacy, and mathematics interest) at grade 9 and 11 related to grade 12 NAEP mathematics performance using nationally representative data.  The overall SEM models reveal that mathematics motivation in grade 11 was statistically significantly associated with grade 12 NAEP mathematics achievement, after controlling for other variables in the model.

Choosing a College STEM Major: The Roles of Motivation, High School STEM Coursetaking, NAEP Mathematics Achievement, and Social Networks

The study uses nationally representative data to investigate how high school STEM motivation, STEM course taking, STEM achievement and social networks are associated with the decision of students who go on to enroll in 4-year colleges to choose a STEM major or not. The study findings highlight the important role of students’ motivation, particularly students’ STEM identity. Thinking and believing in oneself as a scientist and as a person who is good at mathematics were shown to be strongly associated with the choice of a STEM major.

U.S. National and State Trends in Educational Inequality Due to Socioeconomic Status: Evidence from the 2003–17 NAEP

This study examines the trends in educational inequality due to family socioeconomic status (SES) in the United States both at the national level and at the state-level. Specifically, the study focuses on the changes in achievement gaps between high and low SES students between 2003 and 2017 with an additional emphasis on performance trends of low-SES students over time.



Reading Motivation, Reading Achievement, and Reading Achievement Gaps: Evidence from the NAEP 2015 Reading Assessment

This study aims to understand the role that reading motivation plays in middle school reading achievement (including achievement gaps) by analyzing the 2015 grade 8 NAEP reading data. The study focuses on identifying the unique effects of student-level reading motivation and aggregated school-level mean reading motivation on reading achievement.



Weighted and Unweighted Correlation Methods for Large-Scale Educational Assessment: wCorr Formulas

This report introduces the methodology used by the wCorr R package for computing the Pearson, Spearman, polyserial, polyserial, polychoric and tetrachoric correlations, with and without weights applied. Simulation evidence is presented to show correctness of the methods, including an examination of the bias and consistency.



Analyses Using Achievement Levels Based on Plausible Values

Achievement levels are important yardsticks in the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) program. In this document, we provide a detailed description of the plausible value method and demonstrate the method by replicating the analyses using SAS and comparing the replicated analysis results with those produced with NAEP Data Explorer. It is intended to provide a complete document for NAEP data users to easily adapt the methodologies with other statistical software packages such as SAS, Stata, R, and so on.



A Comparison Study of the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) 2012 and the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) 2013 Mathematics Assessments

This study compares the mathematics frameworks and item pools used in the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) with the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) and vice versa. In addition to that, differences in item features between the two assessments are described.

Computer Familiarity and Its Relationship to Performance in Three NAEP Digital-Based Assessments

Because NAEP is transitioning its paper-and-pencil assessments to a digital format, it is important to understand the relationship between students' familiarity with computers and their performance. This study, which analyzed three of NAEP's early digital-based assessments, found that home computer access was positively related to student performance.

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