National Academies Release Report on the Pragmatic Future for NAEP
National Academies Release Report on the Pragmatic Future for NAEP

March 2022

On March 24, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine released “A Pragmatic Future for NAEP: Containing Costs and Updating Technologies,” a consensus report from a study commissioned by the Institute of Education Sciences (IES) to examine innovations for the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP).

The report included an examination of the role of the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) and the National Assessment Governing Board (NAGB) in the development and administration of the NAEP assessments and the reporting and dissemination of NAEP results.

Much of the report focused on the current costs for NAEP and potential areas of innovation, including automated scoring, computer-based delivery, and combining assessment subjects in the field. The report provides an overview of the history of NAEP and changes over the past two decades that have resulted in increased costs for NAEP. Among the changes were the inclusion of mandatory NAEP math and reading assessments in the No Child Left Behind Act, an increase in the number of school districts participating in the Trial Urban District Assessment (TUDA), and the transition to digital-based assessments.

In the report, the authoring committee noted the opacity of the budget process for NAEP beyond what is appropriated from Congress, including the costs of activities within the contracts for NAEP. The committee included as one if its main recommendations to NCES and NAGB that they “should develop clear, consistent, and complete descriptions of current spending on the major components of NAEP, including contract structure, contractual spending, and direct spending on government staff and other costs.” A separate recommendation called for NCES and NAGB to “commission an independent audit of the program management and decision-making processes and costs in the NAEP program, with a charge and sufficient access to review the program’s costs in detail.”

Other key recommendations included:

  • A call for NCES to provide budget recommendations for modernizing the Long-Term Trend assessment, and for Congress, NAGB, and NCES to consider the value of a modernized and continued Long-Term Trend assessment among other priorities for NAEP
  • Implementing more frequent and smaller updates to assessment frameworks
  • In addressing the potential for cost savings, a call for NAGB to consider ways to integrate non-mandatory assessment subjects or combine currently voluntary assessment subjects with one of the mandatory math and reading assessments
  • Continuing encouragement for NCES to administer NAEP using local school staff as proctors with online assessment delivery on local school computers, with development and bridge studies as needed to understand the feasibility and effects of this change in different contexts
  • A call for NCES to devote a greater percentage of its budget for innovative analysis and reporting that will increase the use and understanding of NAEP’s data, including finding ways to make the raw data available more quickly to researchers

The panel was chaired by Karen Mitchell, who recently served as senior director of the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) at the Association of American Medical Colleges. The committee included former NCES commissioner Jack Buckley and former NAGB member Andrew Ho, among other key experts in assessment, measurement, and NAEP policy. The full committee list is included on the project website.

This report is one of three commissioned by IES to examine and provide future insight on the agency’s research, assessment, and statistical activities. “The Future of Education Research at IES: Advancing An Equity-Oriented Science” was released on March 31. The third report, focusing on a Vision and Roadmap for Education Statistics, will be released April 7. All three reports will be featured in sessions during the forthcoming AERA Annual Meeting in San Diego, April 21-26.