NCES is considering a variety of changes to the NAEP system that would allow the assessments to not only measure how students are doing, but why they are performing at certain levels and identify educational efforts that work [source: Finn].
One way administrators are doing that is by expanding the background questions asked of test takers and analyzing relationships between responses and performance. For example, a report on the 2011 science assessment shows that students who frequently worked "hands on" in science projects and classroom investigations generally scored higher than those who did not [sources: Finn,NCES].
These efforts, as one may imagine, have also drawn criticism from spectators who say that NAEP should simply report scores, rather than trying to diagnose the reasons for them. Education policy is messy, highly politicized territory, these critics say, and NCES should stick to what it does best [source: Finn].
At the same time, administrators and policy makers want to know how American students stack up against others around the world. NCES is examining ways to link and compare NAEP scores to those by students on similar international assessments. A recent study of 45 countries showed that in only six of them would a majority of students score "proficient" on NAEP's eighth-grade math test [sources: NCES, FairTest].
NCES is also looking to ensure that the assessments test relevant skills necessary for students to be prepared to compete in a global economy. In 2014, select students will for the first time take the new NAEP technology and engineering literacy assessment, an exam designed to gauge students' knowledge of technological principles, as well as their ability to use the principles to communicate and solve problems. The TEL assessment is the first completely computer-based NAEP test. It will include interactive scenario-based tasks, such as observing video of a model ecosystem and being asked to identify certain organisms [sources: NAEP, National Assessment Governing Board].