Computer Familiarity and Its Relationship to Performance in Three NAEP Digital-Based Assessments

The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) is the largest nationally representative and continuing assessment of what America's students know and can do in various subject areas. The NAEP program has been developing new digital-based assessments (DBAs) and plans to transition additional assessments from a paper-and-pencil administration to a technology-based assessment beginning in 2017. In light of these changes, it is important to consider how students’ experience of using technology and technological devices may impact their performance on a technology-based assessment.

The current study aims to examine factor structures underlying NAEP student contextual questionnaire items designed to measure computer familiarity (as reflected by computer access and use measures). The study also aims to investigate how these computer familiarity factors relate to eighth-grade public school students’ achievement in three recent NAEP DBAs: (1) the 2011 grade 8 Writing Computer-Based Assessment, (2) the 2011 grade 8 Mathematics Computer-Based Study, and (3) the 2013 grade 8 Technology and Engineering Literacy pilot assessment.

Key Findings

Across all three assessments, the results indicate that less than 7 percent of eighth-grade students in public schools across the nation lived in homes without a computer. However, more students who were eligible for the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) did not have a computer at home than did those who were not eligible. Similarly, more Black and Hispanic students than White students did not have computer access at home. No gender difference was identified in home computer access across the three assessments.

Home computer access was found to be positively related to student performance in all three DBAs. This relationship holds even after taking into account students’ NSLP status, race/ethnicity, gender, and computer use. While there was a positive overall effect in the TEL pilot assessment, the effect functions differently for students who are NSLP eligible and for students who are not eligible. The achievement gap between those with and those without home computer access was wider for students who were not eligible for the NSLP than for students who were eligible.