Reporting minority students' test scores : how well can the national assessment of education progress account for differences in social context?

by Mark Berends, Daniel Koretz

This article investigates the adequacy of the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) for taking into account dissimilarities in students' family, school, and community contexts when reporting test score differences among population groups (i.e., racial and ethnic minorities). This question was addressed by comparing the NAEP to other representative data for Grades 8 and 12--the National Education Longitudinal Study (NELS) and High School and Beyond (HSB)--that contain richer social context measures. The authors' analyses show that NAEP lacks a number of important social context measures and that the quality of some (but by no means all) of NAEP's measures is low because of reliance on student self-reports and other unreliable data sources. These weaknesses of NAEP have important practical imiplications: compared to HSB and NELS, NAEP usually overestimates the achievement differences between students who come from different population groups but similar social contexts. However, at the secondary school level at which these analyses were conducted, these overestimates primarily reflect NAEP's lack of important measures rather than its reliance on student self-reports.

Originally published in: Educational Assessment, v. 3, no. 3, 1995-1996, pp. 249-285.

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