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Groups Oppose Expansion of Federal Tests

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Washington--The American Association of School Administrators and the National pta have become the first major groups to go on record as opposing the proposed expansion of the nation's "report card" on student achievement.

Overhauling the National Assessment of Educational Progress to allow state-by-state comparisons of data would add a costly layer of testing to an already overburdened system, the groups argued in separate letters to a House-Senate conference committee considering the proposal.

Moreover, they said, an expanded naep would not yield information useful to educators.

The proposal is contained in the Senate version of the omnibus education reauthorization bill.

In letters sent late last month and early this month, the groups urged the conferees to accept the House version, which would leave the assessment as it is.

"Enough is enough," Arnold F. Fege, director of governmental relations for the pta, said last week. "This bandwagon of testing is getting ridiculous."

A larger national assessment "would hardly contribute to the improvement of instruction," he said.

The plan "never received day 1 of debate" in the Senate, either in committee or on the floor, he added.

Bruce Hunter, associate executive director of the aasa, also argued that the educational value of the expansion was not worth the $8.5 million it would cost.

"The marginal good to educators of comparing data across state lines, compared with the cost, is not much," he said. "The money would be better used for instruction, research, or professional development."

The 19-year-old Congressionally mandated assessment tests a national sample of about 100,000 students in a range of subjects every two years. A blue-ribbon panel appointed by Secretary of Education William J. Bennett recommended last year that the assessment be expanded to test students in more subjects and to permit state-by-state data comparisons.

Most observers predict that the proposal will remain in the final version of the reauthorization bill, de8spite the opposition of the parents' and school administrators' groups.

"A lot of other groups are for it," said Chester E. Finn Jr., the Education Department's assistant secretary for educational research and improvement. "I don't think these two organizations are going to make much of a difference."--rr

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