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National Standards/Assessments: Students

October 23, 1991 15 min read
  • suits from some form of workplaceskills assessment. Also attempting to report student work habits--such as punctuality, attendance, ability to work in teams--based on confidential teacher ratings. E.T.s. project director, George Elford.

The standards and a sot of national tests--against which state tests could be calibrated--would be developed in conjunction with the National Education Goals Panel. President Bush wants the first tests for 4th graders to be available by September 1993. The Administration maintains that the development of national achievement standards and tests does not require Congressional approval.

Meanwhile, the Administration has asked the Congress to expand the National Assessment of Educational Progress. The proposed legislation would mandate regular assessments in English, mathematics, history, science, and geography, and require collection of state-by-state data for states that wish to participate.

The bill does not address who would pay for the expansion, although it would require states interested in state-level data to put up $100,000 and to help administer the tests. States would also be able to use NAEP to generate data on a school-by-school and district-by-district basis, if the Congress approved. Diane S. Ravitch, assistant secretary for educational research and improvement, has said the Administration does net want to turn NAEP into its proposed American Achievement Tests.

American College Testing Program: Developing Work Keys, a national system for teaching and assessing employability skills that could be used by employers and by students who plan to enter the workforce directly after high school. The program, which is being developed in cooperation with six to eight states nationwide, eventually will include assessments and instruction in the specific skills required for particular jobs.

Earliest release, 1992 or 1993. Executive director of the A.C.T. Center for Education and Work, Joel D. West.

College Board: Launched an effort, known as “Pacesetters,” in August 1991 to develop a series of “capstone” high-school courses and related performance-based assessments to be taken at the end of the 12th grade. The board expects to pilot its first exam in mathematics next year.

The project is modeled after the board’s Advanced Placement program. Like the A.P. program, the new courses and assessments will be developed by teams of teachers who identify essential learning outcomes in the curriculum. Unlike the A.P. program, the new courses and assessments will be aimed at all high school students, not just the college-bound, and will emphasize performance-based assessments.

The board has secured an agreement with the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics and the Mathematical Association of America to help develop its pilot course. If the pilot is successful, the board will seek funding to include other subjects. It has also begun discussions about forming a partnership with the New Standards Project.

The “Pacesetter” exams will not replace the College Board’s Achievement Tests, which many selective colleges require for admission, and which are taken in the junior, rather than the senior, year of high school.

Commission on the Skills of the American Workforce: Formed by the National Center on Education and the Economy in 1989. Released a report in June 1990, “America’s Choice: High Skills or Low Wages,” that called for the creation of a system of national standards and assessments, benchmarked to the highest in the world, to be met by all students at around age 16. A student who passed the proposed series of performance-based assessments would be awarded a “Certificate of Initial Mastery” that made him eligible for further education and training or for employment. Work to create this new system of standards and assessments is proceeding via the New Standards Project.

The report also recommended the creation of a comprehensive system of technical and professional-education certificates to signify work readiness for a variety of jobs. Students would acquire such certificates after earning a Certificate of Initial Mastery. A bill now before the Congress would establish a National Board for Professional and Technical Standards to develop these occupational-proficiency standards and assessments.

Co-chairmen, William E. Brock, former U.S. Secretary of Labor, and Ira C. Magaziner, president of SJS Inc. Commission members included James B. Hunt Jr., chairman of the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards; Thomas H. Kean, former Governor of New Jersey; Lauren B. Resnick, director of the Learning Research and Development Center at the University of Pittsburgh; and Marc S. Tucker, president of the National Center on Education and the Economy.

Core Knowledge Foundation: Founded by E.D. Hirsch, a professor of English at the University of Virginia, in 1986. Current funding, approximately $140,000 from private foundations. Has developed a core grade-by-grade curriculum for grades 1-6, called the “Core Knowledge Sequence,” based on what students should know to be culturally literate. Ratified in a conference in March 1990. Has developed pilot exams in the past for 6th and 12th graders. No current plans to develop additional assessments.

Educate America Inc.: A private organization founded in the winter of 1991 by Saul Cooperman, former commissioner of education in New Jersey, and chaired by Thomas H. Kean, former Governor of New Jersey.

Initially proposed to develop a mandatory national achievement test for all high-school seniors at public and private schools. Plan was to contract with commercial test publishers to develop and administer 90-minute tests in six subject areas: reading, writing, mathematics, American and world history, science, and geography. Tests would include multiple-choice and performance-based items. Had planned to seek approximately $90 million a year in federal funding for the proposal.

This past summer, the organization’s leaders reassessed their efforts and said they were concentrating on promoting the idea of national tests, rather than on trying to build one. But Richard A. DiPatri, the group’s vice president, said the organization was “keeping its options open” on whether it would create a national exam.

Educational Testing Service: Creating WORKLINK, a paper and electronics record-keeping system for use by students and prospective employers in place of high-school transcripts. Began in 1989-90. Currently being tested in several sites around the country.

Proposed system would include results from some form of workplace skills assessment. Also attempting to report student work habits--such as punctuality, attendance, ability to work in teams--based on confidential teacher ratings. E.T.s. project director, George Elford.

National Assessment of Educational Progress: Congressionally mandated program begun in 1969. Receives about $20 million a year in federal funds. Tests a national sample of students at the 4th, 8th, and 12th grades in reading, writing, mathematics, and science, among other subjects. Current legislation prohibits NAEP results from being used to rank or compare schools or school districts. In 1988, the Congress authorized a limited expansion of NAEP to produce state-by-state comparisons of student achievement. Specifically, it allowed the collection of state-by-state data in 8th-grade mathematics in 1990, and in 4th- and 8th-grade mathematics and 4th-grade reading in 1992.

At the same time, the Congress requested a study of whether such state-level assessments can be conducted fairly or accurately. That study, being conducted by the National Academy of Education, is due out this month.

The Congress has not yet approved permanent changes in NAEP to allow for state-level comparisons on an ongoing basis or to make testing more regular in specific subject areas. The Bush Administration has asked that the law be changed to allow for state, district, and school-by-school comparisons.

National Assessment Governing Board: Congressionally mandated group of educators, policymakers, and citizens responsible for setting policy related to the National Assessment of Educational Progress. In August 1990, the beard convened a task force to set national standards for what students should know and be able to do at three levels of achievement--basic, competent, and advanced--in mathematics in grades 4, 8, and 12. These levels were used by the National Education Goals Panel in its September 1991 report card to describe student performance in mathematics, even though their validity was widely criticized.

The board this month contracted with American College Testing to develop standards for its 1992 tests in reading, math, and writing.

Executive director, Roy E. Truby. Current chairman, Richard A. Boyd, former state superintendent of education in Mississippi. The former chairman was Chester E. Finn Jr., a professor of education and public policy at Vanderbilt University.

National Council on Education Standards and Testing: Created by the governors, the Bush Administration, and the Congress in June 1991. Purpose to examine the “desirability and feasibility” of developing national standards and a national assessment system for students. The group of 32 educators, testing exports, and policymakers is scheduled to report to the National Education Goals Panel, the Administration, and the Congress by Dec. 31, 1991, and then go out of business.

In July 1991, the council established five working groups composed of panel members and outside experts to assess the status of standards-setting in five subject areas-English, mathematics, science, history, and geography--and to determine what more needs to be done. It also established task forces on standards, assessment, and implementation.

In August, the council tentatively endorsed the idea of a national assessment system, in which states would collaborate to create assessments that could be judged against a national standard. The target date for the first such assessments--to be given to 4th graders in the fields of reading, writing, and mathematics- is 1993-94, although, at its September meeting, the Congressional representatives on the panel expressed objections to the proposed short time line.

Co-chairmen, Gov. Carroll A. Campbell Jr. of South Carolina, the current chairman of the National Education Goals Panel, and Gov. Roy Romer of Colorado, the former chairman of the goals panel. Members include Chester E. Finn Jr., a professor of education and public policy at Vanderbilt University; Lauren B. Resnick, director of the Learning Research and Development Center at the University of Pittsburgh; David W. Hornbeck, former state superintendent of schools in Maryland; and Marshall S. Smith, dean of the graduate school of education at Stanford University.

National Education Goals Panel: Formed by the governors and President Bush in July/990 to monitor progress on achieving the six national education goals announced by the President in January 1990. Released its first national report card in September/991, “The National Education Goals Report: Building a Nation of Learners.”

The panel supports the creation of national standards and assessments for grades 4, 8, and 12 in five subjects--English, mathematics, science, history, and geography. In July 1991, the panel, working with the Congress, formed the National Council on Education Standards and Testing to advise it on the feasibility and desirability of creating such standards and assessments. Currently considering recommendations to develop a national early-childhood assessment (to gauge school readiness) and a national assessment of college students’ thinking, communications, and problem-solving skills.

Chairman, Gov. Carroll A. Campbell Jr. of South Carolina. Convenor of advisory group on student achievement and citizenship, Lauren B. Resnick, director of the Learning Research and Development Center at the University of Pittsburgh. Leader of the technical-planning subgroup on adult literacy and lifelong learning, Marc S. Tucker, president of the National Center on Education and the Economy.

National School Readiness Task Force, National Association of State Boards of Education: A 21-member panel of policymakers and experts in child development, teaching, and assessment. Formed in spring 1991. Funded by the Ford Foundation and the Carnegie Corporation of New York.

Purpose to focus on defining school readiness; promote investments in health, education, and support services for children and parents; and assure that assessment and school-entrance practices improve children’s opportunities, involve parents, and promote the success of children from diverse backgrounds. Final report expected next month. Co-chairmen, Jim Crain, a New England Telephone vice president, and Gov. Bill Clinton of Arkansas. Staff director, Tom Shultz.

New Standards Project: Joint effort begun in the winter of 1991 by the National Center on Education and the Economy, headed by Marc S. Tucker, and the Learning Research and Development Center at the University of Pittsburgh, headed by Lauren B. Resnick.

Purpose to develop a voluntary examination system, in which district and state assessments could be compared against a national standard and a core set of assessments that exemplify the shared standards. Assessments at the elementary-, middle-, and high-school levels would include performances, portfolios, and projects that reflect the complex abilities required of students outside of school.

Currently attempting to identify common learner outcomes in mathematics and English/language arts among 16 states and 6 districts participating in the project. Goal to develop pilot assessments in these subjects by June 1992.

Plan calls for exams in most core subjects--now envisioned to include the arts, foreign languages, reading, writing, mathematics, science, history/geography/civics, and work readiness--to be fully field tested and ready for wide use by 1997. By the year 2000, such assessments might be usable as the basis for awarding high-school diplomas, and for making decisions on college admissions, job hiring, and school-incentive plans.

Central to the project’s work is the notion of a single standard for all students and equitable opportunities for students to meet the standard. Project has received approximately $2.5 million in grants from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and the Pew Charitable Trusts.

President’s Education Policy Advisory Committee: A 24-member panel of business leaders, educators, and public officials formed by President Bush in November 1989. In March 1991, majority view recommended that national standards be established for key grade levels in English, mathematics, science, history, and geography as well as in reasoning and problem-solving skills. Every student in grades 4, 8, and 12 would be tested based on those standards.

The committee advocated that the President, working with the governors, cause to be developed at least two tests that reflect the new standards, and that the first tests--for 4th graders--be ready for use by 1993-94. Also advocated making national testing a centerpiece of President Bush’s America 2000 strategy. Members have also endorsed an early-childhood assessment to measure school readiness.

Chaired by Paul H. O’Neill, C.E.O. of the Aluminum Company of America and one of the founders of the New American Schools Development Corporation. Members include Chester E. Finn Jr., a professor of education and public policy at Vanderbilt University; Albert Shanker, president of the American Federation of Teachers; Thomas H. Kean, former Governor of New Jersey; William E. Breck, former U.S. Secretary of Labor; and U.S. Secretary of Education Lamar Alexander.

Secretary’s Commission on Achieving Necessary Skills: A 31-member panel formed by former U.S. Secretary of labor Elizabeth H. Dole in April 1990 to examine the demands of the workplace and whether young people are capable of meeting those demands. In July 1991, the panel released a report, “What Work Requires of Schools,” that outlined the competencies high-school graduates need and began to consider methods of assessing such skills at the 8th- and 12th-grade levels, in order to form the basis for a “new kind of high-school credential.”

The report’s definition of competencies differs from the subject-area classifications used by most other national organizations. In addition to achieving competency in the basic skills of reading, writing, mathematics, listening, and speaking, the report outlines five areas of competency for students--the ability to identify, organize, plan, and allocate resources; work with others; acquire and use information; understand complex social and organizational systems; and work with a variety of technologies. The report also stresses the ability of students to think creatively, make decisions, solve problems, and reason effectively; and to display responsibility, self-esteem, sociability, self-management, integrity, and honesty.

The panel currently plans to specify the standards for what youngsters should know when they leave high school, based on interviews with 200 job holders in 50 job classifications. A technical report on the subject is to be released in December.

Although the panel does not plan to develop any assessments itself, it will make policy recommendations in that area, based on the work of its assessment task force, chaired by Lauren B. Resnick, director of the Learning Research and Development Center at the University of Pittsburgh.

Final report is scheduled for release in March 1992. The panel’s recommendations carry no legal obligation to be acted on. Panel chairman, William E. Breck, former U.S. Secretary of Labor. Members include Thomas H. Kean, former Governor of New Jersey.

Student Assessment Consortium: Founded in June 1991 by the Council of Chief State School Officers, with approximately $125,000 in funding from the U.S. Education Department’s office of educational research and improvement and the MacArthur Foundation. Approximately 30 states have indicated they will participate.

Purpose to pool efforts across the states to develop performance-based assessments for students and to provide a way to cluster states in connection with any national assessment system that emerges. Has six working groups in reading, mathematics, writing, workplace readiness, history, and the arts. Project director, Ed Roeber.

A version of this article appeared in the October 23, 1991 edition of Education Week as National Standards/Assessments: Students