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NAEP 12th Grade Preparedness Commission
The Nation’s Report Card and 12th Grade Academic Preparedness: National Symposium

July 9, 2013
Washington, D.C.

The NAEP 12th Grade Preparedness Commission hosted a symposium in Washington, D.C., to discuss the results of the Governing Board’s research on 12th-grade academic preparedness for college and job training and the feasibility of The Nation’s Report Card’s serving as an indicator of preparedness. The Washington event, which brought together national leaders in K–12 and higher education, business, civil rights, and legislative policy, was the seventh and last in a series, following events in Boston; Charleston, W.Va.; Jackson, Miss.; Nashville, Tenn. ; Sacramento, Calif.; and Tallahassee , Fla.

Two panels of experts considered the implications of the 12th-grade NAEP research on the nation’s ability to measure the academic preparedness of students for college and job training.

The Panelists

The Honorable Ronnie Musgrove, former governor of Mississippi and chair of the NAEP 12th Grade Preparedness Commission, presided over the symposium.

The Honorable David P. Driscoll, chair of the National Assessment Governing Board, offered welcoming remarks.

The Honorable Arne Duncan, U.S. secretary of education, delivered an opening address to attendees via video.

Greg Jones, vice chair of the NAEP 12th Grade Preparedness Commission, and Cornelia Orr, executive director of the National Assessment Governing Board, presented information about NAEP and the results of the preparedness research.

A panel comprised of the Honorable Mitchell D. Chester, commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education; Chester E. Finn, Jr., president of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute; Glenda Baskin Glover, president of Tennessee State University; and Carmel Martin, executive vice president for policy at the Center for American Progress, discussed the implications of the NAEP research for measuring academic preparedness for college.

A second panel, comprised of Anthony P. Carnevale, director of the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce; Roberts T. Jones, president of Education & Workforce Policy, LLC, and former assistant secretary of labor; Jacqueline E. King, director of higher education collaboration for the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium; Carl Mack, executive director of the National Society of Black Engineers; and Cheryl Oldham, vice president of education policy at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, discussed the issues and challenges of defining, measuring, and reporting on academic preparedness for job training.

Observations made by panelists include:

  • NAEP provides a “truth in advertising” audit function. Having this steady measure of achievement is important, especially during a time of change in standards and testing in the United States.
  • The 12th-grade NAEP in reading and mathematics can serve as a good indicator of college preparedness.
  • The research on NAEP and 12th-grade academic preparedness for college is comprehensive. Additional qualitative studies looking at factors that affect success in college should be considered, as well as longitudinal studies looking at postsecondary outcomes of 12th-grade NAEP test takers.
  • The NAEP research should focus not solely on academic preparedness for entry into college, but on whether students actually graduate from college.
  • Addressing academic preparedness for college is important; too many students graduate from high school believing they are prepared who are not, and are placed into remedial/developmental courses once they enroll in postsecondary institutions.
  • NAEP at the 12th grade does not provide information about individual students or schools, but it does provide information on achievement at the state and national levels. Students and their families want honest information about whether they are on track to be ready for college or employers. NAEP can make a contribution by describing content-specific information about what students need to know and be able to do to be academically prepared for college.
  • In addition to 12th-grade reading and mathematics, NAEP should add 12th-grade writing as a measure of academic preparedness for college.
  • Although the NAEP research to date does not support the conclusion that academic preparedness for job training and for college are the same, great care should be taken in the research and reporting going forward, because having different standards for students is likely to lead to tracking. There is a danger in narrowly defining academic preparedness in relation to specific job-training programs, because the definitions of the skill sets required are in flux.
  • The focus on academic preparedness for job training misses the need to develop innovators and entrepreneurs for a healthy economy.
  • Consideration should be given to changing the terminology from the narrowly focused "academic preparedness for job training" to something broader and more inclusive, such as "academic preparedness for further career education and training."
  • NAEP should not set separate “academic preparedness” scores for college versus job training because the majority of the projected jobs of tomorrow increasingly require postsecondary education.
  • NAEP should conduct research at grades 4 and 8 to determine if it is possible to report whether students are on track for academic preparedness.
  • Although the term "college and career ready" is widely used, it is not well defined, nor is it clear that "college readiness" and "career readiness" necessarily mean the same thing.

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


NAEP—the National Assessment of Educational Progress—is The Nation’s Report Card. For more than 40 years, NAEP has reported on student achievement in the United States at grades 4, 8, and 12.

As the only source of nationally representative data on 12th-grade achievement, NAEP is uniquely positioned to serve as a preparedness indicator. Research has been completed to transform NAEP to serve in this critical role, and the results are promising.

The results of completed research studies can be found here.

Additional background on the research studies and results can be found here.

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