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The Nation's Report Card and 12th Grade Academic Preparedness: Regional Symposium

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November 18, 2011 Nashville Symposium Panelists

November 18, 2011
Nashville, TN

The NAEP 12th Grade Preparedness Commission hosted a symposium in Nashville, Tennessee, to discuss NAEP research on 12th grade academic preparedness for higher education and job training. The symposium also focused on the feasibility of The Nation's Report Card serving as an indicator for preparedness. The Nashville event, which brought together regional leaders in K-12 and higher education, business, civil rights, and legislative policy, was the third in a series of 10 planned symposia, following events in Sacramento and Boston.

A panel of noted local experts addressed the implications of 12th grade academic preparedness for Tennessee's economy and jobs and discussed the potential relevance of NAEP as an indicator of preparedness for Tennessee and the nation.

Presiding over the symposium was the Hon. Ronnie Musgrove, former governor of Mississippi and Chair of the NAEP 12th Grade Preparedness Commission. Kevin Huffman, Commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Education, Mike Krause, Director of Academic Affairs for the Tennessee Higher Education Commission, and Gary L. Nixon, Executive Director of the Tennessee State Board of Education, represented education leaders during the panel discussion. Janet Ayers, a Tennessee businesswoman and President of The Ayers Foundation, and Ralph Schulz, President and CEO of the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce, spoke from the business perspective.

While Tennessee does not currently participate in the 12th grade NAEP at the state level, the panelists discussed this possibility. Dr. Nixon voiced his support for taking part in the 12th grade assessment in 2013.

U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander addressed the symposium via video to kick off the session. Sen. Alexander said NAEP provides an important service to Tennessee. As Gov. Bill Haslam and Commissioner Huffman enact statewide education reforms, NAEP results will serve as an independent indicator of whether those reforms are working, Sen. Alexander said.

The senator said it is important to have a benchmark for whether students are graduating high school academically prepared for their next steps. He offered his encouragement for continued pursuit of the NAEP preparedness research.

The Commission shared the latest NAEP research as background, and solicited ideas for additional research and suggestions for partnering opportunities.

Observations that emerged from panelists' and attendees' contributions include:

  • With valid comparisons to other states and the nation, NAEP serves Tennessee by providing critically important information for comparing results by student sub-groups—e.g., gender, race, and economic level—in terms of progress made and the levels of achievement to which the state can aspire.

  • Tennessee would benefit from research examining the relationship between the ACT and 12th grade NAEP, and between EXPLORE and eighth grade NAEP.

  • Participating in 12th grade NAEP would provide Tennessee with an apples-to-apples comparison to other states on achievement at the end of high school.

  • The NAEP research related to job training could help identify the proficiency levels that are needed to enter various occupations. It could also help inform how the state's Career and Technical Education programming aligns with academic requirements for higher education and the workforce.

  • A high school diploma does not assure Tennessee employers that a graduate can read and do basic math. Employers want some type of measure that confirms preparedness. NAEP is seen by the business community as a reliable accountability measure.

  • The ACT is taken by 11th grade. In Tennessee, the senior year of high school is substantive and consequential. A 12th grade NAEP assessment for Tennessee would provide information on how students perform at this final juncture before entering higher education.

  • Tennessee has embarked on an ambitious redesign of developmental education. It would be interesting to be able to triangulate how students' NAEP performance compares to ACT performance, and then examine success in either remedial classes or credit-bearing classes.

  • It would be very important to highlight the NAEP research on what students need to know and be able to do in reading and mathematics to qualify for college and job training. This research could be helpful to inform teaching and training practices.

  • It would be useful to identify students who are career and technical education concentrators and report their results as a NAEP sub-group.

For a complete record of the morning's conversation, see the symposium transcript.


NAEP is also known as The Nation's Report Card. Congressionally authorized and funded since 1969, NAEP reports to the public on the status and progress of student achievement in core subjects at grades 4, 8, and 12.

The National Assessment Governing Board, which oversees NAEP, is conducting a comprehensive program of research to transform NAEP into an indicator of 12th grade academic preparedness for college and job training.

NAEP is uniquely positioned to serve as this indicator because it is the only source of nationally representative student achievement data at the 12th grade.

The Governing Board's research program, now in its first phase, involves more than 30 planned studies. The purpose of the research is to identify the reading and mathematics skills and knowledge, as measured by NAEP, needed to qualify, without remediation, for first-year college courses or job training.

Research results so far are promising. A report on the first phase of the research program is expected in the summer of 2012.

An overview of the research program can be found here.

Summaries of completed research studies can be found here.

Biographies of all panelists and speakers who participated are provided below.

The Panelists

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