New Assessment Measures Engineering Literacy, Competitiveness


October 2010

New Assessment Measures Engineering Literacy, Competitiveness


Competitiveness is a hot topic in Washington. President Obama has connected many of his initiatives—from the Race to the Top fund to clean energy programs—to America's ability to compete. Congress has also introduced several bills to improve competitiveness, including the contentious reauthorization of the America COMPETES Act, which passed the House in May and is under consideration by the Senate. Many of these initiatives are tied to science, technology, engineering, and math education, an attempt to ensure that our future leaders have the skills to maintain America's status as an industrial giant.

NSPE believes that we must encourage the development of a comprehensive competitiveness policy that is effective on a global, national, and local scale as it pertains to the nation's economic, national security, social, and environmental needs. NSPE recognizes K?12 education as a critical component to competitiveness.

But how do we know if competitiveness initiatives are working? There has been no standardized ability to gauge K?12 students' technological and engineering literacy—until now. The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), better known as the Nation's Report Card, will begin measuring student achievement in technology and engineering in 2014 with the Technology and Engineering Literacy Assessment. The assessment results will be comparable to the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study, which will allow comparisons of literacy between U.S. students and foreign students in more than 60 countries.

The assessment is being developed by the National Assessment Governing Board, a panel that includes governors, state legislators, local and state school officials, educators, researchers, business representatives, and members of the general public. NAGB is responsible for determining the content and design of each NAEP assessment. Current NAEP assessments include reading, mathematics, writing, science, U.S. history, geography, and other subjects.

The assessment is unique because it is the first entirely computer-based test NAEP has administered. Computer-based testing gives the test-writing team flexibility in the types of questions asked, which helps them create an exam that engages students. The test-writing team will even include video-game designers.

The assessment questions will cover three broad areas: technology and society, design and systems, and information and communication technology. The technology and society section concerns the effects of technology on society and the natural world and the ethical questions that arise from those effects. The design and systems section includes the nature of technology, the engineering design process, and basic principles of everyday technologies, including maintenance and troubleshooting. The information and communication technology section covers computers and software learning tools, networking systems and protocols, handheld digital devices, and other technologies for accessing, creating, and communicating information and facilitating creative expression.

The broad skills that make someone successful at technology and engineering also apply to everyday life. The test questions are designed to evaluate how well students understand technological principles, how good they are at developing solutions and achieving goals, and their acuity at communicating and collaborating.

The assessment is still under development. In March, NAGB approved the assessment framework, which describes the content that should be tested and the types of questions that should be included. In May, NAGB approved the assessment and item specifications, which describes the development of the assessment in more detail. The test is expected to launch in 2014.

For more information, see NSPE's position statement on competitiveness by going to Click on "Take Action," then "Position Statements." For more information about the NAEP, visit