One item tucked into President Barack Obama’s fiscal 2013 budget request might have been overlooked amid other funding issues: a proposed cut to the National Assessment of Educational Progress, the esteemed “nation’s report card.”
The administration wants to trim $6 million from NAEP, a key measure of U.S. student achievement across disciplines relied on by educators, policymakers, researchers, and journalists. The proposal is part of a $70 billion budget request for the U.S. Department of Education that would increase the agency’s discretionary coffers by 2.5 percent. (“Obama Budget Plans Selective Boosts in Education Aid,” Feb. 22, 2012.)
The NAEP cut would bring its testing budget down to $132 million, a reduction of 4.3 percent. At the same time, the president’s budget request would add $6 million to create a pilot program for states to benchmark the performance of their 15-year-olds against that of students around the world on the Program for International Student Assessment, or PISA.
The proposed funding amounts “are sufficient to enable NAEP to fulfill its mission and continue to provide the critically important information needed on student achievement over time,” an Obama administration budget document says.
But Cornelia Orr, the executive director of the National Assessment Governing Board, which sets policy for NAEP, predicted that such a cut could lead to changes in the assessment program, including possible testing delays.
“We don’t think any cuts are needed in the NEAP budget, and I don’t think the [governing] board is going to enjoy having to have conversations about what to cut out of the NAEP program,” she said.
The proposal calls for $1 million of the cut to come from the $8.7 million budget of the governing board itself.
The PISA proposal calls for a pilot that would allow “state-level results” on the international exam of 15-year-olds, the administration says. The cost for participating states would be about $600,000 each, the administration says.
The exam, which gauges literacy in reading, science, and math across dozens of countries, will next be administered later this year, with a special focus on math.
A version of this article appeared in the February 29, 2012 edition of Education Week as NAEP Would Lose, to PISA’s Benefit, in Obama’s Budget