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Public school students in New Jersey improved their rankings to third in the nation in reading and fourth in mathematics on the National Assessment of Educational Progress when such factors as race and the number of limited-English-proficient students were factored in, a new study shows.

In the national test in math, for example, New Jersey 8th graders came in 14th among states in 1992 before the other factors were incorporated, the study conducted by the Educational Testing Service notes.

The study comes as officials of the National Center for Education Statistics--in conjunction with the E.T.S., which administers the national assessment--are exploring ways to adjust NAEP scores to take into account demographic and socioeconomic factors. (See Education Week, March 9, 1994.)

Although the New Jersey study by Howard Wainer, a researcher for the E.T.S., was done independent of the federal inquiry, it indicates the differences that might emerge under such a plan. The study, released this month, was commissioned by the New Jersey Education Association, whose officials hoped the results would show that the state's public school teachers are doing a good job.

Test Panel: California education officials will assemble a panel of statistics experts to look into the scoring of new state achievement tests after reports this month that sampling problems may have caused inaccurate scores to be assigned to 150 schools.

State officials said that insufficient funding forced the use of a sampling of test results for reporting school-by-school scores for the first year of the California Learning Assessment System. A newspaper report, however, called into question the size of samples for many schools and the accuracy of the results.

The officials said that an initial review found significant discrepancies in only a few of the 7,500 schools involved in the exam. For example, the results assigned to two schools were based on the scores of only one student each. The report of the expert panel is to be presented to the state school board in July.

Suit in Drug Sting: A Wyoming student and her family say school officials were negligent in their monitoring of an undercover agent in a 1992 state drug investigation at the student's high school.

Officials at the Sublette County school have been named defendants in a civil suit for their role in the drug sting, in which an undercover agent posed as a student. The agent has pleaded guilty to felony charges of "taking liberties'' with the female student.

State and school officials who approved the investigation "knew or should have known'' that the agent on previous undercover assignments had been charged with improper behavior involving students, the suit alleges.

The state of Wyoming and the state attorney general are also defendants.

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