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2 Bills Introduced in Senate Call for Expansion of NAEP

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Washington--Plans for a more ambitious national "report card" on student achievement have moved from the drawing board to the legislative agenda, with the introduction of two bills in the Senate that would implement key recommendations of a blue-ribbon panel convened this year by Secretary of Education William J. Bennett.

As advocated by the 22-member panel chaired by former Gov. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, both bills would expand the Congressionallymandated National Assessment of Educational Progress to provide state-by-state data, measure learning in more core subjects, include out-of-school 17-year-olds, and provide a larger sampling of private-school students.

The bills would also create an independent governing structure to oversee naep and provide states with help in paying for the assessments--both recommendations of the blue-ribbon panel. (See Education Week, March 25, 1987.)

The bill introduced by Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah represents the Reagan Administration's proposal for expanding naep and differs in some details from a version introduced by Senator Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts, chairman of the Senate Labor and Human Resources Committee.

However, aides to Mr. Kennedy said last week that staff members had largely reconciled the differences in the two bills and hoped to fold the compromise into an omnibus bill to reauthorize key education programs.

"We're both going in the same direction," said one aide. "This is largely an exercise in resolving technical details." The Senate Education, Arts, and Humanities Subcommittee is to consider the omnibus bill, S 373, this week.

The provision to expand naep is expected to include these features:

Students would be tested every two years in reading and math, at least every four years in writing and science, and at least every six years in history, geography, and civics.

The measure would establish a new National Assessment Governing Board to provide "expert, nonpartisan, and independent advice" on naep.

Its members would include two current or former governors, two chief state school officers, two state legislators, a district superintendent, members of a state and a local school board, two classroom teachers, a curriculum planner or a testing and measurement expert, a nonpublic-school administrator or policymaker, two principals, one researcher, a representative of business or industry, and three additional members, to include parents.

The Education Department's assistant secretary for educational research and improvement would serve on the board as a nonvoting member. In current law, and in the Administration's proposal, the assistant secretary had voting status.

Although naep now has a similar committee of outside experts, its members are appointed by the testing contractor for naep, and they are subject to change every time the contract switches hands. Changes in the board's structure and method of appointment are intended to grant it more autonomy and shield it from political influences.

Members of the current board would serve at least until the end of their three-year terms. The Secretary would appoint new members to fill vacancies as they occur, choosing from a list of three nominees submitted by the board.

The Secretary would be expected generally to heed the board's recommendations and to provide a written explanation if he declined to follow its advice.

Participation in state assessments would be voluntary. The federal government would share the cost of the assessments, but the ratio of federal to state funds has not yet been determined.

The compromise would authorize a minimum of $10 million for naep and extend it through 1993. Current law sets a $4-million minimum through 1991.

Current review procedures would prevail for naep's background questions on student demographics and attitudes, but cognitive test questions would not be subject to review by the Office of Management and Budget. The measure would also delete attitudinal questions not directly related to the assessment.

Emerson Elliott, director of the Education Department's center for education statistics, said last week that although he had not seen details of the proposed compromise on Senator Kennedy's and Senator Hatch's bills, both fulfilled the "basic intent and purpose" of recommendations by the blue-ribbon panel.

"The differences are kind of secondary to the similarities," agreed Ramsay Selden, director of the Council of Chief State School Officers' education-assessment center.

If details of the bill can be worked out and authorized, he said, the council would agree to use the expanded naep for the state-by-state assessments it has been advocating.

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