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To the Editor:

To our dismay, your recent article "NAEP Scales Back Math-Test Changes'' (March 18, 1992) fails to reflect the many, very substantial changes in the mathematics assessment that were approved by the National Assessment Governing Board at its March meeting.

As the article notes, the board was concerned that the 1994 National Assessment of Educational Progress have enough similarity to the 1990 and 1992 NAEP math exams that changes in performance could properly be reported. However, within this limitation the N.A.G.B. did approve nearly all of the major recommendations developed by the College Board to bring NAEP closer to the curriculum standards of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics.

Starting in 1990, math has been the first subject on which representative state-by-state data are being collected by NAEP. Hence, the board felt it essential that the math scale be maintained so that 1994 results can show improvements where they may have taken place. Without a stable scale, all îáåð could report is who's high or who's low, with no sound information on who is making progress. That would throw away one of the most important benefits of regular state-by-state NAEP testing.

Even with this consideration, though, the N.A.G.B. did approve very significant changes for 1994, which incorporate the most important recommendations of the College Board project:

  • Focus on five content strands which are consistent with the N.C.T.M. standards, instead of the previous content-area-by-skills matrix.
  • Create "families'' of test items to probe students' understanding and application of math topics in different contexts.
  • Increase the emphasis on measuring the N.C.T.M. mathematical power goals of reasoning, connections, and communication.
  • Include more manipulatives, such as geometric shapes, in hands-on math tasks.
  • Reduce the emphasis on number concepts and add more higher-level math, such as data analysis and algebra.
  • Conduct special, small-sample studies on the use of graphing calculators by students in grade 12 and on the unrestricted use of calculators.
  • Include more complex problem-solving exercises, if they produce useful data in 1992.
  • Introduce some pre-calculus and calculus items in grade 12.

While the N.A.G.B. did not fully approve each of the changes recommended, it did endorse gradual movement toward all of them over time. We feel the steps the N.A.G.B. took will certainly move the assessment much closer to the N.C.T.M. standards, while maintaining trendlines for state-by-state data and for measuring progress toward national education goals. You should realize that this balance is only possible because the N.C.T.M. standards (in draft form) already had played a substantial role in developing the NAEP math framework used in 1990 and 1992.

Despite the challenge of reflecting instructional change and measuring student achievement over time, the 1994 NAEP math framework represents a reasonable course of action toward reaching both goals. The form in which it was adopted by the N.A.G.B. reflects considerable negotiation between the College Board project staff, the National Center for Education Statistics, the Educational Testing Service (the 1994 test developer), and the N.A.G.B. staff.

We believe the 1994 NAEP in math will embody a very forward moving, yet technically sound balance between innovation and trends. The math community, the testing experts, and the public that relies on NAEP should all be pleased with this evolution in the assessment.

Robert Orrill
Executive Director
Office of Academic Affairs
The College Board
Princeton, N.J.

Mary Crovo
Assistant Director
for Test Development
National Assessment Governing Board
Washington, D.C.

The previous letter was also signed by John A. Dossey, 1994 Math Project director, Illinois State University, past president of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics; and by Cathy Seeley, 1994 Math Project coordinator, University of Texas.

To the Editor:

While I applaud the innovative spirit in Wisconsin in its use of vouchers for a limited number of disadvantaged children ("Wisconsin Court Upholds State's Test of Vouchers,'' March 11, 1992), the idea of using tax dollars to support anything in which there is no accountability at the polls is totally unacceptable to me.

When taxpayers can vote in the private schools' board elections, then private schools have a right to receive the funds provided by hard-earned tax dollars.

Hazel Tseng Hsieh
President
Westchester Area Chapter
Pi Lambda Theta
Hopewell Junction, N.Y.

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