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Head of Endowment Urges NAEP To Include the Arts on 1996 Tests

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Arlington, Va--The chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts has urged the governing board of the National Assessment of Educational Progress to include the arts in the 1996 naep assessment.

Speaking here this month at the board's quarterly meeting, John E. Frohnmayer said adding arts subjects to the test battery would send a strong signal to schools that instruction in those fields is important.

"It's clear that what's tested is what's taught," he said in an interview. "It's also clear that the arts are really central to the business of learning conceptually. Assessment gives credibility to that belief."

Mr. Frohnmayer noted that naep tested students in art and music four times in the 1970's. Since that time, he said, advances in assessment technology, which are in place in several states, have made it possible to better measure student abilities in the arts.

He added that the endowment plans to convene a conference of assessment specialists to evaluate the new approaches and to consider areas in which further research and development are needed.

But members of the naep governing board said they were skeptical about adding subjects to the assessment.

Under current plans, the 1996 assessment is expected to include reading, writing, and mathematics. Richard A. Boyd, the panel's chairman, said additional assessments would tax the board's budget and staff capacities.

"We know how difficult it is to do what is federally mandated," said Mr. Boyd, the executive director of the Martha Holden Jennings Foundation. "We have learned ... how horribly complex that is."

"I sense a certain amount of skepticism in the membership as to whether we have the capacity to do it and do it right," he added, referring to the arts-assessment idea. "We would want to do it first-class."

Thomas Topuzes, a board member and a lawyer from Coronado, Calif., suggested that the panel could seek funding for the additional assessments from other agencies, including private organizations. But it should continue to explore the possibility of including other subjects--such as for eign languages, economics, and world history, as well as the arts--in future assessments, Mr. Topuzes said.

"We should at least look at other areas," he said. "Let's see if anybody wants to step up to the plate."

Mr. Frohnmayer responded that the arts endowment was willing to work with the U.S. Education De partment on developing assessment techniques. "It may well be the cost of assessing could be partly borne by the endowment," he added.

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