Publications & Resources

Final Report of Experimental Studies on Motivation and NAEP Test Performance

Jun 1997

Harold F. O'Neil Jr., Brenda Sugrue, Jamal Abedi, Eva L. Baker, and Shari Golan

Educators and policy makers have expressed concern that students have little motivation to perform well on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) because there are no consequences for student or school performance. In this study, CRESST and University of Southern California researchers investigated the effects of student motivation on the 1990 NAEP math test. Researchers compared 8th-grade and 12th-grade students’ performance for different motivation factors including financial awards, competition with other students, personal accomplishment, and a certificate of accomplishment (for 12th-grade students only). The researchers found few significant differences in performance except for that of 8th-grade students who received a financial award for the number of questions answered correctly. “The 8th-grade findings,” concluded the authors, “suggest that we may be underestimating the achievement of at least some students when we use scores from low-stakes tests as indicators of achievement.” The researchers added that it is impractical to offer students monetary incentives for NAEP performance but other ways to reward students should be investigated.

O’Neil, H. F. Jr., Sugrue, B., Abedi, J., Baker, E. L., & Golan, S. (1997). Final report of experimental studies on motivation and NAEP test performance (CSE Report 427). Los Angeles: University of California, Los Angeles, National Center for Research on Evaluation, Standards, and Student Testing (CRESST).