“Preparedness” Expected to Be Judged on NAEP

By Sean Cavanagh — November 21, 2008 2 min read
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Federal officials have taken a major step toward setting standards that would allow the public to use scores on a test known as “the nation’s report card” to judge 12th grade students’ preparation for college and the job market.

On Friday, the board that sets policy for that influential test, the National Assessment of Educational Progress, voted to accept a report of an expert panel tasked with setting those standards.

The move essentially allows federal officials to move forward and begin conducting detailed studies to judge how students’ NAEP test performance could be matched against their preparation for college and work. The goal is to have measures of student “preparedness” in place for testing in 2009, so that they could be publicly reported in 2010.

In theory, the move would allow the public to look at 12th graders’ average NAEP scores from states, and individual student demographic groups—currently presented on a scale of 0 to 500—and judge whether they were prepared for postsecondary demands, or for certain occupations.

Members of the National Assessment Governing Board hope that by providing information on 12th graders’ “preparedness,” they can provide clearer information to parents, policymakers, and the general public about how to interpret NAEP scores, said Mary Crovo, the board’s interim executive director.

“It’s a clear way to communicate what scores on the NAEP scale mean,” Crovo said after the vote.

Added board member David Driscoll: “The question is, how do we make the 12th grade report much more effective?” Judging students’ skill for life after high school, he said, “would add meaning to our reporting, for us, for students, for their parents.”

The NAEP 12th grade test currently provides student scores on a national level, rather than for individual states. This year, however, 11 states agreed to take part in an assessment that will produce individual results for those jurisdictions.

The governing board had asked members of a 7-member panel to study the “preparedness” issue. That panel was chaired by Mike Kirst, a professor emeritus at Stanford University, who presented a report to the board on Friday.

Opinions vary on how to judge students’ preparation for college study and jobs requiring varying degrees of skill, as Ed Week has reported. In his presentation, Kirst recommended that the board begin conducting a series of studies, including an examination of how NAEP content compares with certain measurements of college and workforce preparedness, such the ACT and SAT.

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