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Charges That Ga. Test Scores Were Manipulated Probed

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The new chief of Georgia's schools has accused her predecessor's administration of manipulating state test scores for political gain and urged that the exam be scrapped altogether.

Linda Schrenko, a Republican who was elected superintendent in an upset last November, has alleged that the passing score on a state graduation test was lowered so that her Democratic predecessor, Werner Rogers, could claim more students were passing the test as a way of boosting his re-election campaign.

Ms. Schrenko has not specifically accused Mr. Rogers of being involved in any wrongdoing.

The state school board and the education department indeed lowered the passing score required on the graduation test for 1994 after two years of trial tests suggested that the threshold should be lowered, Mr. Rogers said.

The state board, which is dominated by Democrats, voted 8 to 2 this month to authorize the state's Professional Practices Commission to look into Ms. Schrenko's allegations.

"The purpose of requesting this investigation is to determine if the passing score was lowered and, if so, by whom and for what purpose," Bill Gambill, a special assistant to the state school board, wrote in a letter to the commission's executive director.

Mr. Rogers, who is now the executive director of the Georgia Public Telecommunications Commission, last week dismissed the new superintendent's claims as having "no foundation."

Testing the Test

In 1993, the second year the 11th-grade test was given on a trial basis, nearly 30 percent of the students who took it failed. Last year, when the test was formally administered for the first time, the proportion of students failing it dropped to 20 percent.

While state officials were concerned that many students had been told by teachers that the test did not count during the first two years, perhaps helping to lower scores, the poor results from the trial tests prompted them to reconsider the passing mark.

Since taking office in January, Ms. Schrenko has been urging the legislature to abandon the state assessment and replace it with a more generic national test.

She has asserted that she has no confidence in the current testing program because it can be manipulated too easily to produce a desired result.

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