The National Assessment Governing Board (NAGB) intends to streamline the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) and reduce costs by including fewer subjects, testing fewer students and adding testing time. But despite the pared down nature of the test, the board hopes it will procure more data, Education Week reports.
The tests, which are the nation’s only comparisons of student performance state-by-state, are given in 4th, 8th and 12th grade. The “more efficient design” means that 2,000 fewer schools will participate, and one-third fewer students will take the test. Assessments in the arts, geography and economics will also be eliminated, and there will be no further expansions into foreign language.
This decision does not come as welcome news to organizations like the National Endowment of the Arts, which says that the results of the arts portion of test provided valuable insight into equity and access to arts education in schools.
The NAEP program is the largest continuing assessment of U.S. students. NAEP urges parents to allow their children to participate in the tests because it offers a glimpse into what students as a whole are learning.
These insights can help drive policy at both the state and federal level. For example, in Connecticut, 12th-grade African American and Hispanic students were less likely to take advanced mathematic courses than their white and Asian peers. Because of those results, the state now requires that all students have access to challenging coursework. Iowa data showed students were less likely to take advanced math classes so the state launched a math leadership team.
Removing subjects may be counterproductive, argues the National Endowments for the Arts, pointing out that research suggests arts education can contribute to positive youth development. Studies have also shown socioeconomically disadvantaged students who participate in arts programs tend to have higher academic achievement than their peers. The arts are also named in the Every Student Succeeds Act as part of a well-rounded education.