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Catherine Brown
IU School of Education

Nicole Roales
IU Media Relations

Last modified: Tuesday, September 12, 2006

IU to help educators understand assessment of math progress

Sept. 12, 2006

EDITORS: Media who would like to cover the conference can register with the project manager, Lynn Clark, by sending her an e-mail at

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- An upcoming conference sponsored by the Indiana University School of Education will help educators from across the United States better understand national assessment of mathematics through new professional development materials produced at the university.

Learning from NAEP is a set of professional development materials, recently published by the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, for teachers of mathematics. It is part of the larger IU-National Assessment of Educational Progress project, a collaborative effort of the NCTM and mathematics educators at IU with financial support from the National Science Foundation. A manual and accompanying CD-ROM are designed to help educators better understand the intricacies of assessment data and how such data relates to student learning in mathematics classrooms.

"We are very interested in developing IU as a place that people nationwide can look to for expertise on the national assessment as it relates to mathematics," said Catherine Brown, associate dean for research and development and professor of mathematics education in the IU School of Education. "We believe that we have the expertise and good relationships with the right people around the country to make this happen."

The NAEP test is growing in importance because schools, their teachers and states may be graded based on scores. For example, if math or reading scores are high on ISTEP and low on NAEP, then either ISTEP is too easy or not covering the material it should, Brown said. Recently, Indiana has done quite well on the national assessment in math.

The national conference will be held Sept. 14-16, 2006, at the Conference Center at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis. Brown, graduate student Lynn V. Clark and a team of authors will introduce Learning from NAEP to mathematics teachers and professional developers and help them learn to use the manual and accompanying CD-ROM. The 40 participants will then use these materials with teachers and others across the country. Michael Roach, mathematics curriculum consultant for the Indiana Department of Education, will be among those attending the conference.

The professional development materials are based on two books that IU mathematics education professors Peter Kloosterman and Frank Lester edited: Results and Interpretations of the 1990 Through 2000 Mathematics Assessments for the National Assessment of Educational Progress and Results and Interpretations of the 2003 Mathematics Assessments for the National Assessment of Educational Progress, also published by the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics.

Often referred to as the "nation's report card," NAEP was developed in the 1960s as a tool for monitoring pre-college student performance in a variety of subject areas. It has gained prominence in recent years because the No Child Left Behind legislation of 2001 specifies that it may be used as a benchmark to assess the extent to which state assessments are adequately determining student progress. In particular, the legislation requires states to participate in the biennial state-level NAEP in mathematics and reading at grades 4 and 8 in order to be eligible for Title I grants from the U.S. Department of Education.

Learning from NAEP offers educators the opportunity to examine data from the NAEP test within the context of research-based and field-tested workshops. The background information provided in the manual, activities in the workshops and material on the CD-ROM furnish educators with ways to navigate assessment issues and data as they move toward evidence-based practices and policy. The materials are intended to empower educators to use standardized assessment data to better understand student learning and to improve teaching.

"In the conference we will be working with professional developers from across the country," said Brown who, along with Clark, edited Learning from NAEP. "These folks work with thousands of teachers and will learn to use our materials to develop activities with teachers to improve their understanding of mathematics and mathematics learning and teaching. We believe that teachers will even be able to use similar activities with students in their classrooms to improve student mathematics learning and performance.

"Learning from NAEP is probably the most complex professional development set of materials that NCTM has published," Brown continued. "Most teachers don't understand what the national assessment is, how it is designed or what it's used for. Our materials contain not only workshops for teachers but have thousands of examples of actual student work on released NAEP items that teachers can use. There are national results on those items that teachers can see and compare how their students are doing."

Once professional developers begin using the new materials with teachers, IU researchers will study how the materials are used around the country and how it impacts teachers thus students in their classes.