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Chiefs Urge Changes in NAEP by 1990

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The U.S. Education Department should explore the possibility of using the National Assessment of Educational Progress to compare student performance by state in at least one subject and one grade beginning in 1990, the Council of Chief State School Officers urged last week.

The council's motion, approved by its board of directors, came in response to a report issued last month by a study group appointed by Secretary of Education William J. Bennett.

The group proposed that the "nation's report card'' be expanded to provide state as well as national data in the "core'' subject areas of reading, writing, and literacy; mathematics, science, and technology; and history, geography, and civics.

It also recommended that an independent agency be created to set future directions and policies for the assessment. (See Education Week, March 25, 1987.)

Because such changes would require increased federal funding, new legislation, and extensive preparation, department officials have estimated that the full range of proposals could not be implemented until 1992.

The chiefs have been pursuing the creation of their own test to compare student performance, but had hoped to report such data beginning in 1989.

Although they are interested in the possibility of using NAEP instead of developing their own examination, the problem of timing may be the biggest stumbling block, according to Ramsay Selden, director of the council's state education-assessment center.

If state-by-state data are not collected until 1992, he said, results would not be available until 1993. "It's a concern,'' he added, "because that's basically six years from now, and it would be nearly a decade after the council first felt that it would be important to get state-by-state achievement results.''

However, in proposing that some of the changes in NAEP be made sooner than originally recommended, the chiefs set two caveats. First, they urged, the federal government should pay for the state comparisons, as the study group recommended, so that all states could afford to participate. And second, the chiefs said, any changes should maintain the technical fidelity of the study group's recommendations.

Emerson Elliott, director of the Education Department's center for statistics, said the department would be happy to try to shorten the time required, "if the Congress and the chiefs could come to agreement on it.''

"Exactly how that would be done, and what the technical aspects would be, I don't know yet,'' he said. "But it seems to me that to have the chiefs express interest and willingness in it has the potential to move things along faster than might otherwise be possible.''--LO

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