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For the first time, veteran test publisher CTB/McGraw-Hill is offering states and school districts reports of test results that show where students stack up against five performance levels.

The option is one feature of the new assessment series that the Monterey, Calif.-based CTB unveiled with fanfare last week at a briefing in Washington and events for educators at 12 sites nationwide.

Called TerraNova, the series incorporates a new version of the popular multiple-choice Comprehensive Test of Basic Skills as well as other test-format options, such as open-response and performance exams that ask students to come up with their own answers. The series' design allows states and districts to pick and choose among the formats or have a test custom-designed.

The series includes new versions of both the CTBS Survey and the broader CTBS Battery as well as a format called Multiple Assessments, which offers both multiple-choice and constructed-response components. The publisher also will continue to offer its older products.

TerraNova, for grades 1-12, cost $20 million to develop, but the investment apparently has already started to pay off. CTB reports five states--Kentucky, Maryland, Missouri, Nevada, and Wisconsin--and more than 100 districts, including San Diego, have adopted some parts of the series for use as early as this fall.

A feature of the series that CTB officials say makes it unique among its chief competitors is the way in which test items are presented to students. The tests resemble classroom instructional materials, such as workbooks. Sample pages provided by CTB are colorful, attractively designed, and carry photographs or other illustrations.

The five performance levels set by CTB--which appear on a test report at the discretion of the state or district--begin with three initial levels representing partial proficiency. They proceed to levels four and five, which designate "proficient" and "advanced" knowledge.

The performance levels are comparable to the basic, proficient, and advanced levels used for the U.S. Department of Education's National Assessment of Educational Progress but were developed differently, said Melvin W. Webb II, the product manager for scoring and reports at CTB.

Unlike with the grade-specific NAEP, TerraNova's performance levels span developmental groups. For example, one set applies to grades 3, 4, and 5. The expectation, Mr. Webb said, is that younger students will reach the lower levels of mastery, but that 5th graders should perform at the proficient level.

--MILLICENT LAWTON mlawton@epe.org

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