College Board Enters National-Test Arena With New Project

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Taking up President Bush's call for a new assessment system, the College Board has joined the list of organizations seeking to develop a national test of student achievement.

Under an effort launched last month, the New York-based association of colleges and secondary schools is developing a series of "capstone" high-school courses and performance-based assessments to measure students' achievement in such courses. Board officials expect to pilot the first examination, in mathematics, next year.

The project, known as "Pacesetters," is modeled after the board's Advanced Placement program, which enables high-school students to earn college credit by performing well on an examination, said Donald M. Stewart, president of the College Board.

"The President called for a new American Achievement Test and a new model," he said. "We think the A.P. is a model. Why not adapt it to what the governors and the President are calling for?"

Like the A.P. Mr. Stewart said, the new courses and assessments would be developed by teams of teachers, who would identify "essential learning outcomes in the curriculum and a variety of frameworks or paths to achieve them." The organization has secured agreements with the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics and the Mathematical Association of America to help develop the pilot course, he said.

But the Pacesetter courses would differ from those in the older program in that they would be aimed at all high-school seniors, not just the most able students, Mr. Stewart said.

And unlike the A.P. exams, which contain a substantial number of multiple-choice questions, the Pacesetter tests would be performance-based, he said.

"This is an effort by the board to see if a full performance-based test can operate as an achievement test," Mr. Stewart said.

Enhancing Student Preparation

If next year's pilot is successful, Mr. Stewart said, the organization would seek funding to expand the program to include other subjects, such as English, history, science, foreign languages, and the arts.

Mr. Stewart added that he has begun "serious discussions" about forming a partnership with the New Standards Project, a joint effort of the

National Center on Education and the Economy and the Learning Research and Development Center at the University of Pittsburgh. That project held a meeting this summer in Colorado to lay the foundation of an exam system that could be piloted next year. (See story, page 16.)

Mr. Stewart added that he did not expect the Pacesetter program to replace the College Board's Achievement Tests, which many selective colleges require for admission. The new examinations would be taken at the end of a student's senior year, too late for admission decisions, Mr. Stewart noted.

Rather, he said, the board expects the new program to "inform and improve instruction in schools."

"We see this as an enhancement for [students'] high-school preparation," Mr. Stewart said.

Vol. 11, Issue 01, Page 17

Published in Print: September 4, 1991, as College Board Enters National-Test Arena With New Project
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