Assessing the Nation's Report Card

Assessing the Nation's Report Card

Challenges and Choices for NAEP

Chester E. Finn


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Assessing the Nation’s Report Card examines the history of the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) and outlines plans for improving and modernizing the organization.

Educational policy analyst Chester E. Finn, Jr. imparts a rare inside analysis of the evolution of the NAEP program at key moments in its history, and provides a firsthand perspective of crucial decisions and core goals that have helped shape it. The result is a revealing survey of the US’s most influential source of data on K–12 achievement.

Assessing the Nation’s Report Card offers readers an in-depth understanding and appreciation of NAEP as well as an examination of its shortcomings, its controversies, and its current issues. The book explores why NAEP is considered the gold standard of educational assessments yet is much lesser known than other types of standardized testing.

Finn underscores the promise of applying the results in addressing achievement gaps, boosting federal accountability, and driving education reform and policy. He also discloses how the data are collected and what the results can and cannot tell us.

For more than 50 years, this ambitious federal testing program has informed the decisions of policy makers and educational leaders as they advocate for educational improvements in the US. Acknowledging the nation’s evolving need for actionable information about students and schools, Finn provides an assured and rare overview of the existing program and proposes possibilities for the future.


Chester E. Finn:
Chester E. Finn, Jr., is Distinguished Senior Fellow and President Emeritus at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute and a Senior Fellow at Stanford’s Hoover Institution.

For five decades, Finn has been in the forefront of the national debate about school reform, including such positions as Staff Assistant to the President of the United States; Special Assistant to the Governor of Massachusetts; Counsel to the US Ambassador to India; Research Associate at the Brookings Institution; and Legislative Director for Senator Daniel P. Moynihan. He’s been professor of education and public policy at Vanderbilt, assistant secretary for research and improvement at the US Department of Education, chairman of the National Assessment Governing Board, and senior fellow at both the Manhattan and Hudson Institutes. He also served on the Maryland State Board of Education and on that state’s Commission on Innovation and Excellence in Education.

Finn is author or coauthor of hundreds of articles and more than twenty books, most recently Learning in the Fast Lane: The Past, Present & Future of Advanced Placement (Princeton, 2019) and How to Educate an American (Templeton, 2020). Previous Harvard Education Press books are Charter Schools at the Crossroads (2016, with Bruno Manno and Brandon Wright) and Failing Our Brightest Kids (2015, with Brandon Wright).