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Assessing the assessment

Although high school juniors in Michigan will start taking the revised state proficiency exam April 22, state school board members are still wrangling over how their performance will be judged.

A law passed last fall requires the board to use results from the controversial exam as the basis for three categories of state endorsement.

Responding to public criticism of the test, lawmakers last fall shortened the exam and eliminated the previous achievement levels of "proficient," "novice," and "not yet novice."

But after considering new terms such as "adequate," "proficient," or "distinguished" during an April 2 meeting, the board members failed to agree on how to define the results from the new test.

They also gave a thumbs-down to state schools Superintendent Arthur Ellis' recommendation to create categories ranging from Level 1, which would be below Michigan expectations, to Level 4, or distinguished performance.

Board members said that the term "Michigan expectations" needed to be defined. The board will take up the issue again during an April 23 special meeting.

Stop that bus

Hoping to get the word out that the state lottery is a jackpot for public schools, New York officials chose an obvious means of taking their message on the road: a big yellow school bus.

Now, a state lawmaker wants to put the brakes on the promotional effort, saying it can only exacerbate teenage gambling.

"By using a school bus to promote gambling we are teaching our children that gambling at an early age is a good thing," said Democratic Assemblyman William B. "Sam" Hoyt III. "The next thing we'll see is Joe Camel driving an ice cream truck giving out cigarettes." Mr. Hoyt recently wrote Republican Gov. George E. Pataki demanding an end to the promotion.

The state has no plans to stop using the bus, said Robert Hayes, a lottery spokesman, who calls it a "lottery education vehicle." Lottery revenues earmarked for education have contributed $14 billion to the state treasury since 1967, he said, and it's important to let that be known. And he disagreed that the bus contributes to underage gambling.

"This vehicle is our means of getting out there and presenting the mission, programs, and success of the lottery," he said.

--ROBERT C. JOHNSTON & CAROLINE HENDRIE

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