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Collection of State NAEP Data Urged

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Information about the state-by-state academic progress of students should become a permanent feature of the nation's report card, a panel of scholars has recommended.

State-level results of performance on the National Assessment of Educational Progress have been collected on a trial basis every other year since 1990. In a report presented to Congress last month, the National Academy of Education, at Stanford University in California, says the trial state assessments, as they are known, should be ongoing.

The 198-page report is part of a six-year study of the state-level NAEP and is the academy's third report on the topic.

The panel will issue its final report by the end of this year. The congressionally mandated assessment has been given since 1969 to a sampling of students in grades 4, 8, and 12 in a variety of academic subjects.

As it has done in previous reports, the panel expresses concern about the reliability and validity of the achievement levels--basic, proficient, and advanced--set for judging student performance on the national assessment. The panel suggests that the National Assessment Governing Board, which oversees NAEP policy, have a design competition for new methods of setting performance standards for all subjects and that a new method be in place by 2000. In the meantime, the report says, achievement levels should carry a warning stating that results are "suggestive rather than definitive."

Highlights of Recommendations

At least two recommendations offered by the panel mesh with the planned NAEP redesign, which last month received the final approval of the governing board. (See "NAEP Redesigns 'America's Report Card', in This Week's News.)

The academy panel says those who run the national assessment should press for quicker and more timely reporting of exam results while maintaining the quality and integrity of data. They also say NAEP's administrators should consider reducing the burden on states of participating in NAEP, perhaps by decreasing sample-size requirements.

Among the panel's other recommendations:

  • Exam results from students with disabilities and limited English proficiency who take the exam under standard conditions should be mixed with the results for all other students.
  • The U.S. Department of Education's National Center for Education Statistics and the NAEP governing board should provide more time for development of test items and materials from the time a new subject-area framework has been adopted.
  • NAEP should stop reporting results from state-level samples of nonpublic schools because the sample sizes are not large enough. But, where participation rates are high, it should continue reporting the combined results for public and nonpublic schools, as well as results for public schools alone.

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