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No Child Left Behind: A Desktop Reference
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General Provisions, National Assessment of Education Progress (VI-C-411)


The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) provides high-quality data on the achievement of elementary and secondary school students in reading, mathematics, science, and other subjects. NAEP, also known as the "nation's report card," is the only nationally representative and continuing assessment of what America's students know and can do in various subject areas. It has been administered periodically since 1969.

WHAT'S NEW--The No Child Left Behind Act

Reduces Bureaucracy and Increases Flexibility

  • Provides federal funding for administration of NAEP state assessments. The No Child Left Behind Act removes a previous prohibition on using federal funds to pay for the administration of state assessments, and authorizes funding to pay for administration of these assessments.
  • Limits the use of NAEP. The new law prohibits the federal government from using NAEP to influence standards, assessments, curriculum, or instructional practices at the state and local levels to evaluate individual students or teachers or to provide rewards or sanctions for individual students, teachers, schools, or school districts. In addition, the law specifies that NAEP may not be used for student promotion or graduation purposes,and that NAEP should not affect home schools.

Increases Accountability for Student Performance

  • Requires states and selected school districts to participate in biennial state-level NAEP assessments in reading and mathematics at grades 4 and 8 as a condition for receiving Title I funds. State-level NAEP data will enable policymakers to examine the relative rigor of state standards and assessments against a common metric.

Empowers Parents

  • Informs parents. Parents of children selected to participate in NAEP must be informed before the assessment is administered that their child may be excused from participating and is not required to complete the assessment or answer any test question.
  • Ensures access to NAEP data and questions. Parents and members of the public will have access to all assessment data, questions, and assessment instruments in a secure setting.

How It Works

By making objective information on student performance available to policymakers at the national, state, and local levels, NAEP has become an important tool in the evaluation of our nation's education system.

NAEP is administered by the U.S. Department of Education's National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) under the policy direction of the independent National Assessment Governing Board (NAGB).Under current law,NAEP must conduct biennial national and state assessments in reading and mathematics at grades 4 and 8. In addition,NAEP must conduct a national assessment and may conduct a state assessment in reading and mathematics in grade 12 at regularly scheduled intervals. To the extent that time and money allow, NAEP must be conducted in additional subjects--including science, writing, history, geography, civics, economics, foreign languages, and arts--in grades 4, 8, and 12 at regularly scheduled intervals. NCES also will continue the long-term trend assessments of students at ages 9, 13, and 17 in reading and mathematics.

Results of the assessments are reported for the nation and states in terms of average scores as well as the percentage of students that reach each of the Governing Board's three achievement levels: basic, proficient, and advanced. NAEP results will be disaggregated to the extent feasible by race, ethnicity, gender, socioeconomic status, disability, and limited English proficiency.

The No Child Left Behind Act amended the National Education Statistics Act provisions concerning NAEP and also added requirements concerning state and district participation in NAEP to the Title I statute. States are now required to participate in the biennial state-level NAEP in reading and mathematics at grades 4 and 8 as a condition of receiving Title I funds. Similarly, school districts selected for the NAEP sample are required to participate as a condition of Title I funding. Participation in other NAEP assessments is voluntary for states and school districts. Participation in all NAEP assessments is voluntary for students.

The federal government will pay for the administration of the state NAEP assessments. The No Child Left Behind Act amendments to the Elementary and Secondary Education Act removed the previous prohibition on using federal funds to pay to administer state NAEP assessments.

How It Achieves Quality

The statute requires NCES to provide for ongoing review of NAEP assessments by professional organizations to ensure quality. Oversight of NAEP assessments and policy is provided by the independent, bipartisan National Assessment Governing Board, whose members include governors, state legislators, local and state school officials, educators, business representatives, parents, and members of the general public.

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Last Modified: 09/14/2007