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Published in Print: October 6, 1999, as Record Number of States Commit to NAEP

Record Number of States Commit to NAEP

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North Dakota and several U.S. territories are back in, but Alaska and South Dakota are still out, and Vermont is a maybe.

At least 47 states have signed on for the National Assessment of Educational Progress in 2000. Although the number falls short of its goal of full participation, the National Assessment Governing Board, which sets policy for NAEP, is hoping for a record showing for the mathematics, reading, and science tests next year.

"We currently have a total of 55 jurisdictions--including the District of Columbia and the U.S. territories. That's more than ever before," said William T. Randall, a former governing board member who heads a task force working to promote state participation in the federally sponsored tests.

William T. Randall

Between 1996 and 1998, several states chose to forgo involvement in the assessment, called the nation's report card, because of the increased time and resources they were devoting to new state and local testing programs.

The nationwide NAEP results are from a random, representative sample of students. But states can also volunteer to take part and receive state-level performance results. A total of 58 jurisdictions are eligible to participate, including the 50 states, the District of Columbia, five U.S. territories, and Department of Defense schools.

Some states drop in and out of the assessment as policymakers balance the costs and benefits of the program. South Dakota is the only jurisdiction that has never participated in the state-level NAEP, which began in 1990.

No School-Level Data

Richard Smiley

The national testing program "doesn't provide any school-level data, and that's important to us because we have a school reform initiative here that is rating individual schools," said Richard Smiley, Alaska's director of assessments. Mr. Smiley also cited the cost of conducting the tests, and the state's focus on creating its own standards-based assessments, in explaining Alaska's unwillingness to participate.

Alaska's students took part in NAEP in 1996, along with their peers in 47 other jurisdictions, but bowed out last year. Thirty-nine jurisdictions, including 35 states, were among those that took the 1998 writing test, whose results were released last week.

Some states have bemoaned the heavy burden they say NAEP places on teachers, who must undergo special training and plan other classwork for the students in their classes who aren't selected to take the tests.

The governing board formed the task force last year to address those concerns and to pitch the benefits of the national assessment in helping make comparisons between states.

"NAEP provides a really strong benchmark for states. It is a valuable piece of information for them to gauge how they are doing," said Suzanne Triplett, the program director of the NAEP development and operations- assessment division and a former assistant state superintendent for assessments in North Carolina. "When the state-level NAEPs started in 1990, there weren't a lot of high-stakes state-testing programs."

Though states are not charged for testing materials, they must pay administrative and personnel costs associated with giving the tests. The costs vary substantially by state.

The Vermont board of education was expected to vote this month on whether to participate in the 2000 NAEP.

Vol. 19, Issue 6, Page 19

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