discrepancy. It has been proposed that NAEP results could serve as an informal check on the results obtained through the assessments required under the No Child Left Behind Act (National Assessment Governing Board, 2002a). However, for even an informal comparison to be useful as an indication that NAEP and a statewide assessment are yielding results that do not contradict one another, the participation rates for the two groups on each assessment must also be compared.

There may be some legitimate reasons why the rates at which students with disabilities and English language learners participate in NAEP may never equal the participation rates for states. Both NAEP’s purpose and the specific constructs it measures are undoubtedly different in some ways from those of state assessments. NAEP is a low-stakes assessment to which tested students and their teachers attach relatively little importance because of its lack of immediate consequences for them. NAEP assessments are based on a sampling procedure (discussed in greater detail in Chapter 4), rather than the premise that it will provide individual results for every student. Moreover, some states offer alternate assessment options for some students with disabilities and English language learners that cannot be offered by NAEP. Nevertheless, important policy decisions made at the federal, state, and local levels are influenced by NAEP results. These decisions will affect all the students in the relevant jurisdiction and therefore should be based on complete information about all of the students in that jurisdiction. NAEP is designed to report results for the nation as a whole, and therefore it is the committee’s view that it should be guided by the same goal of maximizing participation rates that has been imposed on the states through legislation, so that information about all students can be obtained.

Currently, one reason that students with disabilities and English language learners are not able to participate in NAEP may be that the accommodations they need are not provided or not allowed by NAEP. It may be informative for NAEP to collect information on the extent to which students with disabilities and English language learners are not able to participate as a consequence of NAEP’s policies regarding accommodations, and specifically about the types of accommodations students require that NAEP does not allow or provide. This effort could lead to increased participation rates on NAEP, as well as to a better representation of the academic achievement of the nation’s student population.

Based on the information we have reviewed, the committee concludes that:

CONCLUSION 3-1: The increased use of accommodations with NAEP assessments has corresponded to increased participation rates for students with disabilities and English language learners.

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