NAEP’s random testing methods are flawed

It was shocking to see the 33 percent reading proficiency score for eighth- grade students in Virginia, as measured by the NAEP test and reported in the Nation’s Report Card. [“’Report Card’ presents challenge in Virginia,” Nov. 19].

I am a retired middle-school reading specialist, and the eighth-grade students in my school achieved an 80 percent reading proficiency rate last year as measured by the Virginia SOL test (Virginia—76 percent; Stafford County—78 percent).

In 2019, NAEP tested only 143,100 students from 6,950 schools for reading (21 students/school). Students and schools were chosen randomly. The test does not assess individual students or schools, so students and parents do not receive scores.

A student of mine with disabilities was “chosen” to take this test and was overwhelmed with the idea that his results were going to be used to represent all eighth-grade students in Virginia. Some students didn’t care.

I understand the national need to assess and compare students’ progress in reading across the country, but I don’t think testing such a small sample every two years provides an accurate picture of their abilities.

Eighth-grade students in Virginia take three SOL tests and the PSAT. A small group also take the NAEP test. To compare the reading abilities of eighth-grade students across the nation, it would make more sense to test all eighth-grade students, in all schools, every year, maybe instead of the individual state assessment tests.

Reading instruction does need to improve, but we also need a more effective way to assess our students with disabilities and English Language Learners. Giving them the same test and expecting them to get the same scores as students without these difficulties is not fair.

It also does not give a clear indication of the reading abilities of the eighth- grade students in our district, state and country.

Barbara Heath


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