Validity of the 1992 NAEP of reading

The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) is the only nationally representative and continuing assessment of what America’s students know and can do in various subject areas. Assessments are conducted periodically in mathematics, reading, science, writing, the arts, civics, economics, geography, and U.S. history.

Since NAEP assessments are administered uniformly using the same sets of test booklets across the nation, NAEP results serve as a common metric for all states and selected urban districts. The assessment stays essentially the same from year to year, with only carefully documented changes. This permits NAEP to provide a clear picture of student academic progress over time.

naep_chart2In the late 1980’s a plan developed for state-by-state reporting of 1992 reading data from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). This plan was accompanied in the early 1990’s by a new framework for the assessment of reading. Jean Osborn, Michelle Commeyras, and I were asked to investigate the adequacy of the process used to develop the framework, the degree to which it represented a consensus among professionals in the reading field, and its content and curricular validity.

To conduct this investigation, we analyzed documents produced by NAEP, convened a 2-day panel of experts, held two public colloquia, conducted 50 interviews, and analyzed responses to a questionnaire completed by 627 leading educators. We found that the planning process did not include enough time to address some major concerns of the field. Despite this, there was widespread agreement that the 1992 NAEP in Reading represents important advances in reading assessment, including more open-ended responses, more authentic texts, and student choice about passages. But these very advances raise problems for test design and the interpretation and scoring of student responses.

Materials from this study are now stored in University of Illinois Archives, including trial materials (items proposed for use in the assessments), working papers, meeting minutes, and research protocols.


  • Bruce, Bertram C., Osborn, Jean, & Commeyras, Michelle (1993). Contention and consensus: The development of the 1992 National Assessment of Educational Progress in Reading. Educational Assessment, 1(3), 225-253.
  • Bruce, Bertram C., Osborn, Jean, & Commeyras, Michelle(1993). The content and curricular validity of the 1992 National Assessment of Educational Progress reading framework. In R. Glaser & R. Linn (Eds.), The trial state assessment: Prospects and realities (pp. 157-162). Stanford, CA: National Academy of Education.
  • Commeyras, Michelle, Osborn, Jean, & Bruce, Bertram C. (1992). Reading educators’ reactions to the Reading Framework for the 1992 NAEP. In C. K. Kinzer & D. J. Leu (Eds.), Literacy research, theory, and practice: Views from many perspectives (Forty-first yearbook of the National Reading Conference) (pp. 137-152). Chicago, IL: The National Reading Conference.
  • Commeyras, Michelle, Osborn, Jean, & Bruce, Bertram C. (1994). What do classroom teachers think about the 1992 NAEP in reading? Reading Research and Instruction, 34(1), 5-18.

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