Common Core's alignment with the 2015 NAEP math assessment

A new study by the NAEP Validity Studies Panel analyzes the alignment of the assessment’s 2015 Math Items (the actual test questions) for grades four and eight to the math Common Core State Standards (CCSS).

To do so, the panel enlisted as reviewers eighteen mathematicians, teachers, math educators, and supervisors who have familiarity with Common Core. This group classified all 150 items in the 2015 NAEP math pool for each grade as either matching a CCSS standard or not.

The reviewers determined that the Common Core and NAEP were reasonably aligned at both grade levels— not surprising, since CCSS writers had the NAEP frameworks at their disposal. Further, NAEP is by design broader than the CCSS and is supposed to maintain a degree of independence relative to the “current fashions in instruction and curriculum.”

Panelists found that 79 percent of NAEP items were matched to the content that appears in the CCSS at or below grade 4. The overall alignment of NAEP to CCSS standards at or below grade eight is even closer, 87 percent.

There is, however, variation in matches across content areas. In fourth grade, the least aligned content area was data analysis, statistics, and probability, in which only 47 percent of the NAEP items matched a Common Core Standard. There’s also little agreement between the CCSS and NAEP when it comes to algebra and geometry. For example, just over half of all third- and fourth-grade CCSS standards in the algebra domain have at least one NAEP item aligned to it.

The authors say that it’s been ten years since NAEP conducted a review of its math framework (a framework that is rather mediocre by our estimation) and recommend that they do so in light of both the Common Core and other college- and career-ready standards. But not so fast. Should we open that can of worms if independence is indeed prized—especially when the alignment between the two is already pretty high?

SOURCE: Phil Daro, Gerunda B. Hughes, and Fran Stancavage, “Study of the Alignment of the 2015 NAEP Mathematics Items at Grades 4 and 8 to the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) for Mathematics,” American Institutes for Research (October 2015). 

Amber M. Northern, Ph.D.
Amber M. Northern, Ph.D. is the Senior Vice President for Research at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute.