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TO:                   Superintendents of Schools

FROM:             Susan A. Gendron, Commissioner of Education

DATE:              January 24, 2005

RE:                    2005 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) in Mathematics, Reading, and Science    

            From January 24 to February 18, the 2005 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) in Mathematics, Reading, and Science will be administered at 4 th, 8 th, and 12 th grade in approximately half of the public schools in Maine.   Most of the schools involved will participate at 4 th and 8 th grade.  

            These schools were selected in a stratified sample, first taking into account population density, then taking into account the ethnic distribution and the size of the district; thirdly, taking into account the academic achievement of the schools as measured by the state assessment system.   Within these schools, the students to be assessed were selected to provide a representative cross-section of the school, district, and state.

            The selection of these schools was not random.

            It is very important that the children to be assessed in these schools be encouraged to put forth their best possible effort in completing the NAEP assessment.   The results of this assessment are used in a variety of ways by the government, the business community, and the general public to form judgments about the relative quality of public education in the states.

            NAEP is the only ongoing, unbiased measure of student achievement across the states.    Maine has participated in NAEP voluntarily since well before it was first administered at the state level in 1990; the first national-level NAEP assessment was in Science in 1969.   The No ChildLeft Behind (NCLB) act has mandated participation in the Reading and Mathematics assessments and increased the frequency of administrations from every four years to every two years, as well as requiring state level results for the entire nation.    Maine’s receipt of Title I funds is linked to the NCLB requirement of state participation in NAEP Mathematics and Reading.  

            Maine, along with most of the other states, is participating in NAEP Science voluntarily.   The last NAEP Science assessment was in 2000, and Maine’s students did very well.   At 8 th grade, only Montana’s students produced higher average scaled scores than Maine’s students; at 4 th grade, no other state’s students produced higher average scaled scores.   In 1998, a study by the National Center for Education Statistics compared the results of the 1996 Third International Measure of Mathematics and Science (TIMMS) with the 1995 NAEP Science results for states.   According to this NCES linking study, of the 41 other countries participating in TIMMS at the 8 th grade level, only Singapore’s students showed higher achievement in Science than Maine’s students.

            Each student participating in the 2005 NAEP will be assessed in only one subject, for a total of 90 minutes (with an additional 20-30 minutes for the few students in each school who are selected to complete a hands-on Science task).    Students requiring accommodations will receive them on the same basis as they do for the MEA.   Students who are exempted from the MEA will be exempted from the NAEP.   The assessments will be administered by trained administrators from NAEP, and teachers and administrators may observe if they wish.

            I strongly urge district and building administrators to share with the students in their schools who will be participating in the 2005 NAEP the importance of the results of their work on this assessment.   In particular, the performance of 12 th grade students on NAEP has been a source of concern across the nation and has resulted in several research studies conducted by the National Assessment Governing Board (NAGB), as well as proposals at the federal level for additional mandates regarding 12 th grade students.

            Although NAEP results are reported only at the state and national levels, communicating to the staff and students in the selected schools the importance of taking this assessment very seriously is in all of our interest.

            Questions or concerns regarding the 2005 NAEP assessment should be addressed to the NAEP State Coordinator for Maine, John Kennedy, at or 207-624-6636.   Additional information about Maine’s NAEP results and comparisons among the states can be found on the Internet at