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As Part of Assessment Redesign, NAEP Proposes 14-Year Calendar

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Washington

The board that sets policy for the National Assessment of Educational Progress has, for the first time, eased the uncertainty about what NAEP tests will be given to the nation's schoolchildren--and when--by adopting a tentative long-term schedule.

The 14-year calendar fulfills part of the National Assessment Governing Board's recent pledge to redesign the national assessment and should allay the frustration that some local and state educators have felt because they could not plan ahead for the testing.

AEP is mandated by Congress and is given in a variety of subjects to a representative sampling of students in grades 4, 8, and 12. Administered since 1969, it is the only comprehensive, ongoing assessment of U.S. students' academic achievement.

The Department of Education's National Center for Education Statistics runs the assessment, but the Princeton, N.J.-based Educational Testing Service conducts the tests.

The schedule, put forth at a quarterly meeting of the governing board here this month, calls for the national exam to be given every year. Currently, the main NAEP is administered every other year, and in any of a wide number of disciplines. The new plan specifies that tests in four core subjects--mathematics, science, reading, and writing--would be given most often--every four years.

According to the proposal, the long-term-trend assessment would be conducted every four years, replacing the current alternate-year schedule. Unlike the main assessment, the trend studies, given in the four core subjects, enable the tracking of student performance on a trend line unbroken since 1970.

At the state-level administration of the assessment, math, science, reading, and writing would be the only subjects tested. The state component would take place in the same years that those core-subject tests are given at the national level.

The calendar is based on conservative cost estimates and could be expanded if Congress provides more funding, Education Department officials said.

Global Link Delayed

The schedule, which could get final board approval in March, also shows when the assessment's results would be presented in a "standard" report and when they would take shape in a "comprehensive" one.

The standard reports would be the primary way that results are released; they would be written for a general audience and run 50 to 100 pages. They would be issued within six months after the end of student testing. Users of NAEP have complained about the many months of lag time before results have been released.

The comprehensive reports would be lengthier than standard reports, aimed at researchers, and issued in several installments. Generally, a comprehensive report would be produced the first time a new or revised subject test was administered. The first of the comprehensive-report installments could be issued within nine months of testing.

In other action, the board agreed to delay until the middle of next year the findings of a much-anticipated study to link the performance of 8th graders on the 1996 NAEP in math with the math performance of their peers in other countries as recorded in the Third International Mathematics and Science Study. ("U.S. Students About Average in Global Study," This Week's News.)

Such a link would make it possible to compare the math performance of students from any participating state in the United States with that of students throughout the world.

Pascal D. Forgione Jr., the commissioner of the NCES, asked for the extra time because of technical concerns about the quality of the linking. He also said he wanted to examine the 8th grade link in the context of other NAEP and TIMSS data that will be available next year.

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