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House Plan Would Force NAEP To Scrap Tests, Officials Say

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WASHINGTON--The National Assessment of Educational Progress would scrap the proposed 1994 United States history and geography assessments, and curtail state-by-state testing, if the budget approved by the House of Representatives becomes law, according to NAEP officials.

The fiscal 1993 appropriation for the Education Department, approved by the House in July, would provide $29.6 million for NAEP, $300,000 less than the amount provided in fiscal 1992 and far less than the $64.8 million requested by the Bush Administration.

If the Senate adopts the House spending level, NAEP would be unable to conduct any of the expansions it has proposed, according to Richard A. Boyd, the chairman of the National Assessment Governing Board, who called the House bill "drastic.''

"The House action really means we don't do much at all, except the bare necessities,'' Mr. Boyd said.

He explained that in 1994 NAEP would conduct national assessments in reading, mathematics, and science, but would be unable to conduct the assessments in history and geography, the other two subjects named in the national education goals. The geography assessment was expected to be the first full-scale assessment in that subject. (See Education Week, May 13, 1992.)

Nevertheless, Mr. Boyd said, the board will continue to consider adding subjects to the assessment. Last month, for example, the board voted to begin developing assessments in economics and civics.

In addition to scrapping the two national assessments, Mr. Boyd said, the House budget would not allow NAEP in 1994 to conduct state-level assessments of 12th-grade students in any subjects, as well as a state-level science assessment, which the board had agreed to do.

This year, NAEP conducted a state-level test in 4th-grade reading and in 4th- and 8th-grade mathematics. The National Academy of Education, in a report on the first trial state-level assessment, said NAEP should conduct a trial state-level 12th-grade assessment before making the state-by-state comparisons a permanent part of the project.

Mr. Boyd said the House bill may reflect Congressional opposition to the state-by-state comparisons.

"I guess [whether the Senate goes along] really depends on whether the powers that be do or do not want us to do those kinds of things,'' he said. "That might be their intent.''

But in its report on the appropriations bill, the House Appropriations Committee said the funding cut was aimed at permitting further debate on the proposed expansion.

"The committee believes that a one-year hiatus in the planned expansion will permit both the Congress and the public to develop a more thorough understanding of the national assessment program being developed,'' it states.

In a related development, the NAGB last month approved, in principle, standards for the 1992 math assessment.

Math Standards

The standards will be used as the primary means of reporting the results of the assessment when the scores are released early next year. Under the board's plan, the report will indicate the proportion of students who performed at the "basic,'' "proficient,'' and "advanced'' levels on the assessment.

The board's effort to set standards for the 1990 assessment had generated a hail of criticism, most recently from the Congressional General Accounting Office. Mr. Boyd said the new effort, which was conducted by American College Testing, had solved most of the problems encountered in the earlier attempt.

"I would put the experts at ACT up against anybody in the country,'' he said. "I think they have done a masterful job.''

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