Less than a month after a national commission formed by the board that oversees the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) test recommended that twelfth-grade participation in NAEP be made mandatory, President Bush has introduced a plan to do just that. NAEP is the only nationally representative and continuing assessment of what American students know and can do in various academic subjects. Currently, states are required to participate in the NAEP in reading and math every two years, administering the test to randomly selected students in grades four and eight. Participation is voluntary among randomly selected twelfth-grade students and produces results that can only be measured nationally, rather than state by state.
According to the White House, an expansion of NAEP to include mandatory testing of twelfth-grade students would ensure that students graduating from high school have the skills they need to succeed in postsecondary education or careers. Extending this requirement to twelfth grade will help educators assess whether high schools are teaching the skills students require. It will also help identify areas in which the needs of students are not being met, and to strengthen curricula to ensure improvement.
In an “Ask the White House” session on April 8, Margaret Spellings, assistant to the president for domestic policy, said that the federal government would pay for the cost of the new proposal, which she estimated to be between $15 million and $30 million. She added that putting the proposal into effect would require congressional action.
“America needs to know how well prepared its high school seniors are to become productive citizens and to compete in a global economy-how well they can read, write, and compute, and what they know about science, history, civics, and other important disciplines,” read the commission’s report, 12th Grade Student Achievement in America: A New Vision for NAEP. “Only the National Assessment of Educational Progress can provide this information-for the nation and for states-and it is necessary for our nation’s continued well-being that it be provided.” (See the March 22 issue of Straight A’s for more information on the report. The newsletter is accessible here.)