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Statewide Proficiency Levels Urged

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New Jersey's education commissioner has urged the state board of education to set proficiency levels for core courses in all public high schools.

In addition, Commissioner Saul A. Cooperman told the board this month, the state should test students regularly to ensure parents that their children's schools are preparing them to meet the new standards.

According to a spokesman for the state education department, local boards currently set the proficiency levels that high-school students must master to earn a diploma.

Mr. Cooperman proposed that statewide proficiency levels be established in four required curriculum areas: English, mathematics, science, and social studies.

The commissioner also recommended that at a later date the board consider setting proficiency levels for other required courses, such as physical education, and foreign-language studies, the spokesman said.

Although Mr. Cooperman suggested that local officials should be primarily responsible for assessing whether students are meeting the proficiencies, under his plan the state also would periodically test students.

The tests would not be a requirement for graduation, the spokesman said. Rather, he said, they would be used to provide a sample measurement of school effectiveness.

The commissioner also proposed that the test results be made public to allow each community to monitor their district's progress.

New Jersey high-school students currently must pass a statewide basic-skills test in the 9th grade in order to graduate. Mr. Cooperman has asked the legislature to move that test to the 11th grade.

Under the commissioner's new proposal, the core proficiency levels would be recommended to the state board by eight panels of local educators, who would serve two-year terms. Their recommendations, in turn, would be reviewed by local educators, who would also assess the impact of the statewide proficiencies on curriculum and instruction.

The state board plans to hold a series of public hearings on the recommendations next fall. It is expected to take a final vote on the matter early in 1989.--L.J.

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