NAEP Trends: Main NAEP vs. Long-Term Trend

This study compares the measurement of mathematics and reading trends by two separate National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) statistical series. The first series is based on the Long-Term Trend assessment, which dates back to 1969 and assesses students in three age groups: 9-year-olds, 13-year-olds, and 17-year-olds. The other series, now described as Main NAEP, dates back to 1990 and assesses students by grade: grade 4, grade 8, and grade 12. In trends over the period 1990–2009, as measured by average annual change in similarly scaled average scores, the study found that Main NAEP and Long-Term Trend produce highly similar results. Differences between the trend lines can be claimed only for mathematics at the elementary and middle school levels. The Main NAEP trend exhibits the higher average annual change in these cases, but both trends show positive progress in elementary and middle school mathematics. Both assessments also indicate positive progress in elementary school reading scores. The paper also describes the methodology of each assessment and compares the two trend lines for comparable subgroups of students specified by grade within age, age within grade, and racial/ethnic groups.