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Testing Column

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When 8th graders took Maine's statewide tests last month, they were not asked to fill in bubbles to answer multiple-choice questions. Instead, students constructed their own responses. And they often had to describe the strategy they used to solve a problem.

The Maine Educational Assessment has also adopted a new reporting format. It will describe four levels of student performance: distinguished, advanced, basic, and novice. The new format will be phased in gradually.

Since 1991, Maine has based 50 percent of student and school scores for all subjects on open-response items.

How will students know what to include in a portfolio of their work? That's the challenge the New Standards Project has taken on in a series of six publications geared to students.

States and districts belonging to the project are developing national education standards and a way to measure students' progress toward them. This fall, some 50,000 students will put together portfolios for mathematics and English language arts as part of a national field test.

The "student-portfolio handbooks" explain to youngsters what they should know and be able to do to meet the standards. They also list the pieces that should go into the portfolios and include samples from student work.

More information is available from Andy Plattner at the National Center on Education and the Economy, 700 11th St., N.W., Suite 750, Washington, D.C. 20001; (202) 783-3668.

Teachers may soon receive guidance about interpreting and communicating assessment results, thanks to a project by the National Council on Measurement in Education, the National Education Association, and the American Federation of Teachers.

The groups have developed materials to be used as training resources for teachers. They are being field-tested in 15 sites this fall, including workshops and undergraduate education courses.

The documents are based on standards for teachers' competence in the educational assessment of students that were developed in 1990.

More information is available from Barbara S. Plake at the Buros Institute of Mental Measurements, the University of Nebraska at Lincoln, 135 Bancroft Hall, P.O. Box 880348, Lincoln, Neb. 68588; (402) 472-3280.

--Lynn Olson

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