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Study of Southern Students' Test Scores Raises Doubts on Worth of Nationally Normed Exams

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More than 90 percent of Southern students' scores on standardized tests in the 1986-87 school year were at or above national averages, a report by the Southern Regional Education Board has found.

The findings, which corroborate those of a controversial study by a West Virginia-based advocacy group, cast doubt on whether nationally normed tests provide useful information, according to Mark D. Musick, vice president of the sreb

"We do believe this raises legitimate questions in the public's mind about what the scores mean," he said.

Nationally normed tests measure student performance against that of a sample of students, who may have taken the test years ago. Test publishers contend that the high number of students who score above the national average reflects improvements in student performance since the norms were set.

According to the sreb report, the scores demonstrate the need for a new type of assessment, such as an expanded National Assessment of Educational Progress, which would permit state-by-state comparisons of student achievement.

The report also found that, despite recent efforts by three states to eliminate tests for some students, the Southern states have increased the use of such tests in the past few years. All 15 states that belong to the board used a nationally normed test last year, and all but one--Oklahoma--administered criterion-referenced tests.

In the past year, it notes, Virginia discontinued the use of competency tests required for high-school graduation, North Carolina eliminated tests for 1st and 2nd graders, and Mississippi dropped tests for kindergartners.

But no more than three states use the same national tests, the report found, and most states test in different grades, making comparisons between states difficult.

Copies of the report, "Measuring Student Learning," are available for $6 each from the Southern Regional Education Board, 592 10th St., N.W., Atlanta, Ga. 30318.--rr

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