NAEP and Common-Core Math Show ‘Reasonable’ Overlap, Study Says

By Liana Loewus — October 26, 2015 2 min read
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A new study looking at the relationship between the National Assessment of Educational Progress and the Common Core State Standards for mathematics finds that the two have “reasonable” overlap, but that the national test falls short on assessing some of the common standards.

The study, commissioned by the NAEP Validity Studies Panel, an independent panel run by the American Institutes for Research, was published in advance of this week’s release of the 2015 NAEP reading and math scores for 4th and 8th grade students. NAEP is administered to a nationally representative sample of students about every two years.

The NAEP test was not designed to be aligned with any particular set of standards—it is meant to be used as a barometer of student achievement across the United States.

For 4th grade math, the researchers found that 79 percent of NAEP’s test items matched material from the common-core standards at or below that grade level. And for 8th grade math, the correlation was even stronger: 87 percent of items matched the common core.

But when looked at from the other direction, there’s less alignment. Just 58 percent of the common-core standards from the 6th, 7th, and 8th grades are linked with at least one NAEP 8th grade test item.

“It looks like there’s material that is important to the common core which isn’t so far finding its way into NAEP,” Fran Stancavage, a lead researcher for the study, said in an interview. “And that would mean that there’s learning going on that isn’t being picked up by NAEP at this point.”

More of the 3rd and 4th grade common-core standards—77 percent—are tested by the NAEP 4th grade items.

The National Assessment Governing Board, which sets policy for NAEP, periodically adjusts its content to reflect changes in classroom instruction, the study says.

“NAEP has to strike some kind of a balance because on the one hand, if it keeps changing around all the time you don’t have a trend line to measure, and on the other hand, if it gets too out of step with what’s going on in classrooms, then the results are not as useful,” said Stancavage. She emphasized that the researchers looked only at the standards, and can’t be sure they’re being faithfully implemented in classrooms.

While the common core and NAEP shouldn’t be “carbon copies,” according to Stancavage, ideally they would be more in line than they are currently.

When asked what implications the study has for the 2015 NAEP scores, which come out Oct. 28, Stancavage chose not to comment.

See the full study here: “Study of the Alignment of the 2015 NAEP Mathematics Items at Grades 4 and 8 to the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) for Mathematics

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Curriculum Matters blog.