National Assessment Technical Quality

Gao ID: PEMD-92-22R March 11, 1992

Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO provided information about its ongoing review of how the National Assessment Governing Board (NAGB) set achievement levels for interpreting and reporting students' mathematics achievement on the 1990 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). GAO noted that: (1) evaluation consultants and other education experts expressed concerns about the NAGB approach for defining basic, proficient, and advanced achievement levels and the technical quality of the 1990 test results; (2) NAGB plans to continue applying its approach in spite of reliability and validity concerns; (3) it is uncertain whether the NAGB approach will ever be suitable for application to NAEP; and (4) NAGB made only a cursory review of alternative standard-setting methods and did not analyze its chosen approach's limitations. GAO also noted that its examination and comparison of NAGB and NAEP organization structure and statutory responsibilities presents alternatives for: (1) realigning the functions assigned to each to clarify their roles; and (2) strengthening NAGB capacity to make sound technical decisions.

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