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National Assessment of Educational Progress

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Assessing whether the NAEP, used to gauge learning progress, can also measure college readiness
  • Client
    National Assessment Governing Board
  • Dates


It’s unknown whether a national student assessment can measure college readiness.

The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) was designed to monitor the educational progress of K-12 students. But there’s growing interest in determining if K-12 assessments can be expanded to include inferences about student preparedness for college and career. If so, NAEP could be used to help measure college and career readiness.


NORC and its research partners compared NAEP to a current readiness test.

To determine if the NAEP can serve as a predictor of later student achievement, the National Assessment Governing Board partnered with NORC at the University of Chicago and the Wisconsin Center for Education Products and Services to compare the NAEP to ACT Explore, a test specifically developed to provide information about student readiness for college and career. The analysis:

  • compared the alignment of the two assessments to the NAEP framework or domain of knowledge
  • compared the alignment of the two assessments to the ACT College and Career Readiness framework.

NORC and the Wisconsin Center used an assessment-to-assessment alignment analysis comparing the degree to which each assessment mapped to common college and career readiness frameworks.


The study found the NAEP offered a deeper assessment of college readiness.

Results indicated that the 2013 NAEP Grade 8 Mathematics Assessment and the ACT EXPLORE assessment had a moderate level of alignment. The set of items in each evaluation targeted the same general content. However, EXPLORE had less coverage of college and career measures, partly because EXPLORE had one-fifth of the 153 items in the NAEP assessment. 

There was a moderate alignment for mathematics, with NAEP having more measurement, geometry, and data analysis topics, while both assessments targeted similar topics in numbers and algebra. 

For reading, the NAEP assessment had greater coverage of types of content areas and strands than EXPLORE. NAEP further covered more content, and at a higher level of complexity, than EXPLORE. 

As such, the study suggests that NAEP can be useful in measuring college and career readiness.

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