Reading and math results in grades 4 and 8 from the first large-scale digital administration of the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) will be released early next year, and Peggy Carr, acting commissioner of the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), said in a conference call briefing on Tuesday that she is “optimistic” that NCES will able to maintain the trend line in performance “across all states, all jurisdictions and all the subgroups.”
While results are normally released in October, the additional time was needed for careful analysis in which NCES compared student performance on the digitally based assessments with that of students who took traditional paper-and-pencil assessments. While digital devices have been used for some NAEP assessments in the past, such as for science interactive computer tasks, writing, and technology and engineering literacy, NCES is now making a “full transition over to a digital environment,” Bill Bushaw, executive director of the National Assessment Governing Board, said during the briefing.
NCES began piloting digital reading and math assessments in 2015 by having small groups take the online reading and math assessments while the majority of students were still using the old format. Then this year, the process was flipped to having the majority using the online platform and a smaller sample using the paper tests as a way to determine whether the format affected student performance. Carr adds that NCES went through a period of “play testing” with groups of students to familiarize them with the format and to collect feedback on sample items. Tutorials are also available for students.
In keeping with the move to digitally based assessments at the state level, NAEP’s transition to an online format will allow NCES to measure students’ learning in new ways and to collect data, for example, on how long students spend on a math task, how long they take to read a passage or what tools on the computer they use to help them solve a problem. This data, Carr says, “enriches reporting” and will contribute to the development of future test items. Some tasks might also now include audio, video or multimedia.
In 2018, the civics, geography and U.S. history tests will also be digitally based. NAEP also provides all the equipment needed for students to take the assessments, including tablets with keyboards, earbuds, a stylus, an administrator tablet, a closed wireless network and a field staff to set it all up.