Proposals To Create New National Test For Students Misguided, Anrig Argues
Washington--Creating a new national test for all students is the "wrong answer" to the problem of lagging educational performance, the head of the nation's largest testing firm said here last week.
Releasing a study that analyzed state actions and student outcomes from the "education-reform decade" of the 1980's, Gregory R. Anrig, president of the Educational Testing Service, said the reforms of the past decade "probably did all they could do" to raise student achievement.
He said the study's findings indicate that additional action will be needed to ensure that students perform at higher levels.
But, he argued, proposals by President Bush's education-policy advisory panel and other groups to create a national examination are misguided.
"I don't think the way to achieve excellence is by mandating a test," Mr. Anrig said. "You need good teaching and a solid curriculum. Reform has to be as close to the classroom as possible."
Mr. Anrig added that a national test would impose additional testing burdens on schools without providing information that is not currently available from the 47 state testing programs and the National Assessment of Educational Progress, which the ETS administers under contract to the Education Department.
The report issued last week noted that, during the 1980's, nearly all states raised graduation standards, imposed or expanded testing programs, and enacted sweeping changes in teacher standards.
But while student performance, particularly at low levels of skill, increased over that period, it notes, the overall level of performance remains low, and gaps between the performance of white and minority students persist.
To achieve higher levels of performance, Mr. Anrig suggested, states should place teachers "at the center of reforms" by giving them greater control over instructional practices.
Testing should be part of that effort, he added. By tailoring tests to teachers' needs, he said, test makers can help them evaluate student progress and revise instruction accordingly.
But he added that states should not "throw the baby out with the bath water" and eliminate multiple-choice tests used to inform the public about student performance.
"For accountability, you want, as efficiently and as economically as possible, to do testing to report to the public," Mr. Anrig said. "But you don't have to test every child, every year, in every subject to ask that question."
Copies of "The Education Reform Decade" are available for $3.50 each, prepaid, from ETS Publications Order Service, P.O. Box 6736, Princeton, N.J. 08541-6736.