Interpreting 12th-Graders’ NAEP-Scaled Mathematics Performance Using High School Predictors and Postsecondary Outcomes from the National Education Longitudinal Study of 1988
The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP)—the Nation’s Report Card— is the best known measure of student achievement in the country. Yet interpreting in practical terms what attaining a particular score or achievement level on NAEP means can be difficult, if not controversial. Recently, the search for an understandable reporting format has led the National Assessment Governing Board to explore the possibility of measuring and interpreting student performance on the 12th-grade NAEP in terms of readiness for college, the workplace, and the military. Yet validating a NAEP college or labor market readiness measure requires information about post-high school outcomes that are not available in NAEP and that only a longitudinal study could supply.
Thus, this report attempts to explore the meaning and utility of the NAEP achievement levels in a new way. It interprets 12th-grade NAEP-scaled mathematics performance using data from the National Education Longitudinal Study of 1988 (NELS:88). NELS:88 followed a cohort of spring 1988 8th-graders through high school and thereafter until 2000 (when they were about 26 years old). The 1992 round of data collection included a battery of achievement tests. Results include a NELS:88 12th-grade mathematics score expressed on the NAEP scale. NELS:88 student and parent survey data, as well as data both from high school and postsecondary transcripts, are used to explore what achievement on the NAEP mathematics scale might mean relative to both student, family, and high school factors as well as later education outcomes—in particular, postsecondary access and attainment.