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Md. District is First to Reach Test Benchmark

For the first time in the five-year-old history of Maryland's student performance assessments, one of the state's school systems has met a benchmark for academic achievement.

In rural Garrett County, 71.3 percent of the 381 8th graders taking the science assessment scored at the "satisfactory" level or above. The standard calls for at least 70 percent of students to reach that level.

Experts cautioned against drawing any significant conclusions about the Garrett County schools from the results of one year's test. Nonetheless, state officials said all but two counties have shown consistent academic improvements over the past two years.

Students in grades 3, 5, and 8 take the performance assessments in reading, writing, language usage, mathematics, science, and social studies. (See Education Week, Aug. 2, 1995.)

Redefining Gifted Students

Starting next fall, schools in Georgia will be required to expand their definition of gifted students.

The state school board last month unanimously approved a requirement that schools move away from assigning students to programs for the gifted solely on the basis of IQ-test scores. The vote followed months of wrangling with Superintendent of Public Instruction Linda C. Schrenko and sorting through complex legal issues. (See Education Week, Oct. 18, 1995.)

Georgia's IQ-only standard has come under fire from federal civil-rights investigators, who say it may violate federal anti-discrimination laws because the state's reliance on the test scores contributes to racial skewing of enrollment in gifted programs.

Under the new policy, schools will expand admission into gifted programs to students who meet criteria in three of four areas: academic performance, motivation, creativity, and IQ. But schools can continue to admit students who meet only the IQ standard, according to a state board spokesman.

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