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Close to Deadline, Wilson Signs Bill To Create Assessment System

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With just hours to spare before the deadline for a veto, California Gov. Pete Wilson signed a bill last week that creates a new state-wide system for assessing student learning.

The new system, which is to begin with districts conducting voluntary basic-skills testing as early as next spring, replaces the California Learning Assessment System, known as CLAS.

Last year, Mr. Wilson vetoed a bill that would have continued that system, saying that CLAS lacked reliable scores for individual students and a strong emphasis on basic skills.

Under Pressure

Mr. Wilson, who recently pulled out of the race for the 1996 Republican presidential nomination, was under considerable pressure from conservatives to veto the new measure, AB 265, as well. (See Education Week, Oct. 4, 1995.)

The new basic-skills tests will use off-the-shelf exams for students in grades 2 through 10.

The bill the governor signed contains $4.5 million for an incentive program to give districts $5 per student as reimbursement for the cost of the basic-skills tests.

The second half of the system involves a mandatory statewide test of applied academic skills, which is yet to be developed.

That test, to be phased in over several years, is to be given in several academic subjects to students in grades 4, 5, 8, and 10.

Setting Conditions

As a condition of signing AB 265, Gov. Wilson obtained assurances that when the legislature reconvenes in January, lawmakers will pass legislation to fix a half-dozen concerns he had with the bill.

Mr. Wilson wants to make sure that rigorous academic-content and performance standards for what students should know and be able to do are adopted by the state board of education before development begins on the test of applied academic skills.

He also wants legislators to provide for public access to test items before the the new state tests are administered.

State schools Superintendent Delaine Eastin last week applauded Gov. Wilson's action. "This assessment system is the key to quality control in public education in California," she said in a written statement.

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