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Grant Awarded for National Exam

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The Pew Charitable Trusts of Philadelphia has awarded a $1.15-million grant to help develop a new national examination system for students.

The award went to the Learning Research and Development Center at the University of Pittsburgh, which is coordinating the project with the National Center on Education and the Economy, based in Rochester, N.Y.

Last month, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation of Chicago awarded $1.3 million to the ncee for the joint project, which eventually could be used to determine students' graduation from high school, admission to college, and access to jobs. (See Education Week, Dec. 12, 1990.)

The twin grants will fund the first 18 months of a proposed 10-year effort to develop assessments that focus on high-level skills and on the application of knowledge to real-world problems.

Under the proposal, students could complete a series of performance examinations, portfolios, and projects over a period of time in order to graduate from high school.

Rather than relying on a single national exam, the system would allow states and school districts to develop their own instruments, which could be calibrated to national standards in core subjects.

By setting high and visible standards that all students are expected to meet, the project hopes to raise the caliber of education in the nation's classrooms and to give students an incentive to take tough courses and to work hard in them.

According to Marc S. Tucker, president of the ncee, "the United States is the only major nation in the world in which students go through school without working toward an examination standard."

"In other countries," he said, "all students, not just those going to college, are expected to meet a high standard of academic achievement and to take a curriculum that will prepare them to do so."

Over the next three months, the project plans to assemble a group of volunteer school districts and states that will collaborate in the development effort.

Eventually, the hope is that other states and districts will choose to participate in the assessment system.--lo

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