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Testing Column

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Nearly three-fifths of school districts administer commercially available standardized tests annually to almost every pupil in grades K-12, and more than three-fourths administer such tests each year to pupils in grades K-9, a survey has found.

The survey, based on responses from test directors in 50 districts, ranging in size from 3,300 to one million pupils, also found that more than two-thirds of the districts use such tests for evaluation and accountability. Some 55 percent of the districts use standardized tests for diagnosis, and only 12 percent use them for guidance, it found.

Examining data from 38 of the districts, the survey also found that testing costs range from $21,000 to $1.45 million per year, and that the average annual per-pupil cost for those districts was $4.79.

Results of the survey, which was conducted by Ernest A. Bauer, the director of testing for the Oakland County, Mich., public schools, were published in the Spring 1992 issue of Educational Measurement: Issues and Practices.

The Educational Testing Service and Aspira Inc., a national Latino youth agency, have each prepared reports to guide educators and policymakers through the debate over national testing.

The E.T.S. publication, written by Albert E. Beaton, a professor of education at Boston College, discusses issues surrounding the content of the proposed tests, the ability to compare results, and performance standards.

Before developing such tests, concludes the report, "Considerations for National Examinations,'' policymakers must first determine the uses for which they will be put.

"Focusing on the measurement instrument instead of the attribute measured is not the way to start,'' it states.

Copies of the report are available for $2.50 each from the Policy Information Center, E.T.S., Princeton, N.J. 08541.

The Aspira issue brief, meanwhile, examines proposals for national tests and the political context of the debate, and it addresses concerns that have been raised.

Despite such concerns, it notes, many supporters of national standards and tests have included on their agenda issues of concern to civil-rights advocates. These include the need for broad participation in the development of standards, equity, and massive teacher-training.

To ensure that such issues remain on the agenda, the report proposes 16 specific recommendations.

Single copies of "National Testing: The National Debate'' are available by writing: Publications, The Aspira National Office, 1112 16th St., N.W., Suite 340, Washington, D.C. 20036.--R.R.

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