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The National Science Foundation has awarded a total of $6 million to seven institutions for research and development into alternative forms of assessing student learning in mathematics and science.

The three-year awards will support studies on performance-based assessments and portfolios. The researchers will examine technical issues, such as validity and reliability; policy issues, such as ways of reporting results; and effects on instruction.

The grants were awarded to the New York State Department of Education, the Educational Testing Service's California branch office and main office, the University of California at Los Angeles, Stanford University, the RAND Corporation, and Policy Studies Associates Inc.

Francie M. Alexander, the executive director of the National Council on Education Standards and Testing, last week was named deputy assistant secretary of education for policy and planning in the department's office of educational research and improvement.

Ms. Alexander, previously the associate state superintendent of public instruction in California, is expected, among other duties, to oversee an O.E.R.I. initiative to provide assistance to states to develop new curricular frameworks and assessment systems.

Until her appointment to the standards council, Ms. Alexander also served as a member of the National Assessment Governing Board, which oversees the National Assessment of Educational Progress.

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