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Accord Affirms Independence Of NAEP Governing Board

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WASHINGTON--The Education Department and the National Assessment Governing Board have signed an agreement affirming the board's status as an independent agency.

Under the agreement, which addresses long-simmering concerns between the two bodies, the board will have the authority to let contracts and hire staff members, among other duties.

"This really is a milestone,'' said Roy E. Truby, the executive director of the N.A.G.B. "We won't be mistaken again as just another advisory panel.''

Established in 1988 by the Congress, the 23-member governing board has the statutory authority to set policy for the National Assessment of Educational Progress, a Congressionally mandated survey of student achievement.

But the law that established the board also left unclear its relationship to the Education Department. Although it was intended to be an independent body, it received funding through the department--as a set-aside from the NAEP budget--and the department assumed control over appointing its staff members and awarding contracts.

The arrangements led to clashes between the department and the board over the past three years.

The new memorandum of understanding, signed this month, stipulates that the N.A.G.B. "will exercise its functions, powers, and duties independent of the Secretary [of Education] and the other offices and officers of the Department of Education to the extent permitted by applicable law.''--R.R.

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