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Money Woes Delay NAEP Art Exam, Cut Math Data

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A lack of federal funds has delayed plans to assess what students know and can do in the arts until 1997. The fund shortage also means that states will have less data with which to compare their students' performance in science and mathematics.

The arts exam was originally slated for 1996 as part of the National Assessment of Educational Progress, the federal program that tests as many as 20,000 students in various subjects each year.

But the National Assessment Governing Board, the 26-member panel that sets policy for NAEP, voted Nov. 19 to put off the arts exam for another year.

The board decided to forge ahead with 1996 assessments in science and math. But it will limit the data collected for making state-by-state comparisons to grade 8, instead of compiling it for grades 4 and 12, as well.

NAGB's executive committee had recommended both steps because of budgetary constraints. The U.S. Education Department had requested $3.27 million for NAEP in fiscal 1995, but a law reauthorizing the program limited the budget to $3 million. (See Education Week, 09/21/94.)

If more funds are made available, science and math testing will be expanded to allow state-by-state comparison at grade 4 and then at grade 12. But Roy Truby, NAGB's executive director, said that scenario is "optimistic, to say the least."

The board's decision means that NAEP will produce fewer state-by-state comparisons of students' math performance than in years past, when states have received such results for two grade levels.

Parent Surveys Dropped

NAEP has also dropped plans to field-test two parent surveys in 1995. The surveys--the first ever of parents--were designed to yield more accurate information about students' socioeconomic status.

But board members adopted a resolution in August criticizing the surveys as too intrusive. They also worried about the surveys' length, reliability, and cost. (See Education Week, 09/07/94.)

Federal officials now plan to spend more time developing the questionnaires, with any major test postponed until at least 1996.

Officials are also exploring whether data from the Agriculture Department on which students receive free or reduced-price lunches could be used as a source of information about the poverty levels of students who take NAEP tests.

At its March meeting, NAGB plans to consider a policy statement on the background information collected and reported by NAEP, including the use of parent questionnaires. The governing board does not have the authority to approve specific questions, but can set a general policy.

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