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Plan Would Give Georgia Districts Leeway in Student Assessments

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The Georgia Board of Education is considering a plan that would allow school districts to weigh other factors besides test scores in identifying kindergarten and 1st-grade pupils for special assistance.

The $20-million Special Instructional Assistance Program, passed as part of an education-reform law in 1985, is scheduled for statewide implementation next fall. Its aim is to offer more individualized instruction for kindergarten and 1st-grade pupils deemed at risk of falling behind in school.

State education officials plan to use the California Achievement Test in the first year and a new assessment instrument in subsequent years to target 1st graders for the program.

They are also in the process of selecting a developmental screening instrument for kindergarten pupils.

In addition, however, the department is "asking school systems to look at other placement criteria," such as parent interviews, teacher observations, language skills, and other assessments, said Sharon K. Meinhardt, coordinator of early-childhood education.

The board agreed last month to accept the plan for consideration at its June meeting.

Some members voiced concern, however, that it would give school districts too much flexibility.

"I have no problem with some additional criteria of some sort--I simply want it applied statewide," said Joseph Sears, a board member. "Whatever combination is appropriate should be applied to everyone."

Ms. Meinhardt noted that the state had "learned some valuable lessons" from a controversial 1st-grade readiness test it implemented last year: "Never use one thing to make a decision."

The board voted in March to replace the paper-and-pencil test with a less formal assessment and teacher checklists. (See Education Week, March 15, 1989.)--dc

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