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For-Profit Firms Invited To Bid For Contract for Expanded NAEP

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Washington--The Education Department announced last week that it is ready to accept bids to conduct an expanded National Assessment of Educational Progress in 1990 and 1992.

The "nation's report card" on student achievement will collect data that can be used to make state-by-state comparisons for the first time in 1990.

And, in the bids process, for-profit organizations will be allowed for the first time to apply for the job of running the assessment.

Emerson J. Elliott, acting director of the National Center for Education Statistics, said last year's Hawkins-Stafford School Improvement Amendments removed a requirement that naep be run by a nonprofit organization. It also gave the nces the option of awarding a contract rather than a grant.

When a federal agency selects a contractor, it publishes a "request for proposals" that sets out its requirements for the project, and solicits applications. In contrast, appli4cants for grants make proposals and the agency negotiates with them.

Naep is currently conducted by the Educational Testing Service under a grant from the Education Department.

"The government needs to be more prescriptive in what it's asking to do," Mr. Elliott said. "In the past, the grantee ran the policymaking machinery. That's all changed now."

He noted that policy is now set by the National Assessment Governing Board, whose members are appointed by the Secretary of Education.

The Hawkins-Stafford Act also authorized the state-by-state assessment and expanded the subject areas to be covered by naep.

Thirty-eight states, the District of Columbia, and two territories have agreed to participate in the state-by-state pilot project, which will measure 8th-graders' mathematics skills. In 1992, naep is to assess 4th-graders mathematics knowledge on a state-by-state basis.

Proposals are due April 10.

--jm & rr

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