a division of Home School Legal Defense Association
October 16, 2000

National Assessment Education Progress (NAEP)

What is NAEP?

Often called “The Nation’s Report Card,” NAEP is the only nationally representative and continuing assessment of what America’s public and private school students know. The use of NAEP has continually expanded over its 30-year existence. These expansions have led to more federal education spending and opened the door to greater government influence over education with less input from parents, states, and local communities. Home School Legal Defense Association is concerned that NAEP, especially the State NAEP test, may evolve into a voluntary national test that will become the driving force behind a national curriculum, because what gets tested is what gets taught!

Where is NAEP today?

Rather than passing a stand-alone bill for NAEP reauthorization, Congress chose to include it in H.R. 4875-the Scientifically Based Education Research, Statistics, Evalutation, and Information Act of 2000. H.R. 4875 was marked up in subcommittee on July 28, 2000. Three key reforms worked for by HSLDA were included in the bill:

  1. the bill limits subjects areas that can be tested,
  2. state and local educational agencies cannot be forced to participate in long-term NAEP assessement and may opt not to test, and
  3. the bill contains a clear prohibition against national testing.

Since mark-up,HSLDA has met with House Education and Workforce Committee staff to request several changes. The staff agreed that the first three changes on the following list were possible and resolved to work towards implementing them on behalf of home schoolers.HSLDA has also asked for the other changes.

  1. Make State Participation Voluntary on the State NAEP This critical change will ensure that local control remains the center of the Congressional reforms. It is imperative that testing for local educational agencies be voluntary to prohibit states from coercing local schools into State NAEP test participation.

  2. Assure that Parents are Members of NAGB Local control and responsibility of education has been one of the biggest education reform messages in Congress. Rather than making it an option for parents to be representatives on the NAGB board, Congress should require that parents fill a significant role on the Board to ensure local representation.

  3. Maintain Status of NAGB Representatives An appointed NAGB member should promote the interests of the designated group he was appointed to represent. If he leaves that group, a conflict of interest arises because he no longer has an incentive to protect his group’s well being.

  4. Limit the Frequency of Tests Between 1980 and 1996, the NAEP was never administered more than once every two years. Furthermore, during this period of time, more subject areas were tested than are authorized by this current legislation. It makes no sense to increase the frequency of testing when we are testing fewer subjects. Finally, students are already being over tested and suffering from “test fatigue.” Congress must limit the amount of NAEP testing in order to lessen the burden currently being placed on schools.

  5. Increase Representation of Private Schools on NAGB Private schools represent many parents who pay tuition and sacrifice to send their children to non-public schools. These schools should have a greater contribution to the policies of NAGB than just one voice. Increasing their representation will ensure that discriminatory policies are not implemented that favor public schools over private.

  6. Prevent Religious Bias in Testing Add the word “religious” in a list of other bias prohibitions.

  7. Limit Subjects Tested Because NAGB has used its discretionary power to expand the subjects tested far beyond the original intent of NAEP legislation, it is imperative that Congress clearly “limit” the subjects tested. This will ensure that value-laden areas possibly objectionable to parents are not tested.

  8. End State Level NAEP A temptation to teach to the test is inherent in all student-testing proposals. The state NAEP test gives individual states an opportunity to compare their students test scores against the test scores of other states. Consequently, states may model their curriculum after the test in order to produce higher scores and, by default, create a national curriculum dictated from the federal level.

  9. Test Only Public School Students Private schools should not be required to participate but be given the option to opt out.

  10. Do Not Collect Personally Identifiable Information Knowledge is power and power is the ability to control. This is why HSLDA has had serious concerns over the collection and/or maintenance of “individually identifiable information” (e.g. SS numbers, addresses, phone, drivers license, etc) on pupils by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). NCES claims that it would be impossible to conduct any sort of longitudinal survey unless they can assess individual pupils. However, they have a privacy statement (which can be found at www.nces.ed.gov/statprog/Stand1v_01.asp) that guarantees precautions are taken to restrict the use of this data and that personally identifiable information is not available to public.

What work has HSLDA done to change NAEP?

Home School Legal Defense Association began working on the NAEP issue back in early 1998 when the legislation was due for reauthorization. On June 11, 1998,HSLDA Senior Counsel Christopher Klicka was one of the few opponents to testify against NAEP reauthorization before the House Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Youth and Families. Aware that 1998 was an election year and that public opposition to NAEP was intensifying, Congress postponed official reauthorization in 1998 and again in 1999 by simply continuing to fund the program.

On May 11, 2000, Chris Klicka urged the same subcommittee to revamp NAEP by limiting it to its original national assessment by region and eliminating the newly developed State NAEP. Klicka asserted that NAEP is growing beyond its original mission, which was to evaluate student development in math and science, and is now branching into values?laden academic areas such as art, history, and economics. He argued that the NAEP test should be limited to its original intent and that the newly developed state level tests be eliminated, leaving only the national assessment by region. In addition to testifying at these two committee hearings,HSLDA has spearheaded a fight against NAEP’s continuation. We have organized a coalition of conservative organizations opposing NAEP, written several letters to Congress, and lobbied both houses concerning this test. Most recently, we have worked with Congressman Bill Goodling (R-PA), Chairman of the House Education and Workforce Committee, and his staff to shrink NAEP the growth and influence to NAEP.


HSLDA continues to battle any legislation or program that hints of a national test. Through lobbying done by home schoolers across the nation, NAEP “creep” has significantly slowed down but there is still much more to be done. It appears that H.R. 4875 will not pass this session and therefore, work on this bill will be picked up at the beginning of the next session.

For further information on this, contact the National Center for Home Education at: 540.338.7600, or by fax 540.338.8606, or e-mail NationalCenter@hslda.org. Permission to reprint granted.