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Panel Urging Major Changes in Testing in Chapter 1 Program

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WASHINGTON--A panel launched by the Education Department a year ago is urging major changes in testing under the Chapter 1 program, including the development of a national sampling system similar to the National Assessment for Educational Progress and assessment systems designed by states to match their school-reform goals.

A draft report of the Advisory Committee on Testing in Chapter 1 concludes that, because of the program's "overreliance'' on aggregated scores on standardized, norm-referenced tests, it is not generating adequate data to gauge student progress. It also suggests that Chapter 1 assessment practices are out of sync with reforms being pursued by states and school districts.

Similar themes are sounded in a larger Chapter 1 study released last week. (See related story, page 1.)

"The current testing requirements tend to reinforce some of the more ineffective or outmoded approaches to teaching disadvantaged children, such as drilling students on low-level basic skills or giving them less challenging subject matter than their peers receive,'' says the draft report, which is expected out in final form in a few weeks.

Thomas A. Romberg, a member of the panel and the director of the National Center for Research in Mathematical Sciences Education at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, summarized the report last week at a hearing of the House Elementary, Secondary, and Vocational Education Subcommittee.

While maintaining a focus on accountability, he said, the panel wants Chapter 1 testing to shift from "measuring regulatory compliance'' to promoting student learning and improved teaching. It also urges linking Chapter 1 testing standards to state and local reform efforts and the national education goals.

The panel recommends multiple assessments, including performance-based methods that allow pupils to actively demonstrate their skills. It also calls for strategies that recognize children's different developmental stages and says "care must be taken'' to devise appropriate measures for younger children.

Tied to Performance

Other recommendations include:

  • That the federal government develop a "NAEP-like'' system to evaluate the reading, writing, language, mathematics, science, history, and geography skills of a sample of Chapter 1 students. It would be on a multi-year cycle in selected grades beginning with grade 3.
  • That states--with input from districts--develop and implement standards for Chapter 1 content and student performance consistent with their standards for all children and then design an assessment system--using performance-based and other measures--tied to those goals.
  • That teachers systematically get feedback to help them "incorporate good assessment practices into their everyday classroom operations.''
  • That children be selected for Chapter 1 remediation on the basis of multiple indicators.

The panel suggested that its recommendations be phased in over five years.

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