Vocabulary results from the 2009 and 2011 naeP reading assessments
A New Focus on
Beginning in 2009, the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP)integrated a measure of students’ understanding of word meaning with themeasurement of passage comprehension in the NAEP reading assessment. Thedecision to focus on students’ understanding of word meaning emphasized theimportant role vocabulary plays in the process of reading comprehension. To under-stand the overall topic or theme, students need to integrate their knowledge ofindividual words—or a sense of these words—with the way the words are used inparticular passages. For example, a reader may understand the meaning of “acute”in the context of mathematics to describe the angles of a triangle, but may not haveencountered the word used to describe human emotions, as in “acute embarrass-ment.” Having a sense of words that is suciently exible helps readers extendtheir understanding of the word and understand its use in a new context.Understanding word meaning has always been essential to reading comprehen-sion. Whether reading the printed page or a computer screen, a strong senseof word meaning provides a basis for greater comprehension in an increasinglyfast-paced world.
How did students perform?
Students whoscored higheron NAEPvocabularyquestions alsoscored higherin readingcomprehension.Fourth- andeighth-gradevocabulary scoresdid not changesignifcantlyrom 2009 to2011.There was nosignifcant gendergap in vocabularyat grade 12.
NAEP assessesvocabulary in a waythat aims to capturestudents’ ability touse their understand-ing or sense o wordsto acquire meaningrom the passagesthey read. Unliketraditional tests ovocabulary that askstudents to writedefnitions o words inisolation, NAEPalways assesses wordmeaning within thecontext o particularpassages. Studentsare asked to demon-strate their under-standing o words byrecognizing whatmeaning the wordcontributes to thepassage in which itappears.