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Achievement Gaps
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What are the Achievement Gaps?

  1. Achievement Gap in Race

What Is the National Assessment of Educational Progress?

The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) is the only national, continuous assessment of U.S. students' knowledge of a range of subject areas. The characteristics of the NAEP reading, math, and science assessments are described.

This reports some of the ideas and findings from the following source:

National Assessment of Educational Progress (1999).Long term trend assessment.U.S. Department of Education. Retrieved March 29, 2002 from

To see other reports that originated from this same citation, go to the bibliography.

How does the U.S. assess its students' knowledge in different content areas?

How can we tell how those scores are changing over time?

The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), also known as The Nation's Report Card, periodically tests U.S. students' knowledge of reading, mathematics, science, writing, U.S. history, civics, geography, and the arts. Started at the end of the 1960s, the NAEP is the only national and continuing assessment of student knowledge in different subjects.

While the NAEP does not provide individual student scores, it does provide scores of different age and subgroups (for instance, gender and race) across different knowledge areas.

Snapshots and Long-Term Trends

The NAEP tests student knowledge in two ways.

  1. Main assessments examine the state of knowledge of students at certain grade levels: 4, 8, and 12.
  2. Long-term assessments examine how knowledge of a particular subject area changes over time by testing students at certain ages: 9, 13, and 17.

There are some important differences between these two assessments:

  • The main assessment tests students at a certain grade level; the long-term assessment tests students of a certain age.
  • The main assessment instruments change over time to reflect changes in current U.S. educational content and testing methodology; the long-term assessment instruments remain constant over time in order to provide a comparison at different times.

Because of these differences, it is not possible to compare the main assessment and long-term assessment scores.

How Are Students Tested?

What are students tested over in the different subject areas?

Looking at reading, math, and science, the NAEP tests students over the following materials.

Content Area

Material Used in Assessment


Reading materials:

  • "simple narrative passages to complex articles on specialized topics"

The selections include:

  • "stories, poems, essays, reports, and passages from textbooks, as well as a sample train schedule, telephone bill, and

Assessment tools:

  • multiple-choice questions
  • written response question


Aspects of mathematics knowledge measured:

  • knowledge of basic facts

  • ability to perform numerical processes with paper and pencil
  • knowledge of basic formulas for geometric measurement
  • ability to apply mathematics knowledge to everyday life

Assessment tools:

  • mostly multiple-choice questions completed without a calculator


The long-term trend assessment in science contains

  • a content dimension : the ability to conduct inquiries and solve problems, as well as mastery of science knowledge
  • a cognitive dimension

Assessment tools:

  • multiple-choice questions

Note.From National Assessment of Educational Progress (1999).Long term trend assessment.U.S. Department of Education. Retrieved March 29, 2002 from


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