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Education News in Brief

Puerto Rican Officials Spar Over Low Scores on NAEP

By Sean Cavanagh — December 01, 2008 1 min read

Puerto Rican leaders are embroiled in a sharp disagreement over whether the island commonwealth should continue to participate in the National Assessment of Educational Progress, an exam on which their students have struggled.

The commonwealth’s secretary of education, Rafael Aragunde-Torres, wrote a letter last month asking that U.S. officials allow it to be “permanently exempted” from participating in the test.

The secretary, in the Nov. 12 letter, argued that the translation of the NAEP in mathematics, which has been given to Puerto Rican students in Spanish, as well as cultural differences not taken into account on test items, might be dragging down students’ scores there.

But those assertions have been rejected by Luis G. Fortuno, who was elected last month as Puerto Rico’s governor. He serves as Puerto Rico’s “resident commissioner” in the U.S. House of Representatives.

In a letter to U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings, Mr. Fortuno said removing Puerto Rico from NAEP would “do a terrible disservice to students, parents, and teachers” on the island. He accused Mr. Aragunde-Torres of “playing politics” with the issue.

Removing Puerto Rico from NAEP “does not promote the interests of the island’s public school students,” the governor-elect wrote on Nov. 19, “whose educational achievement continues to lag far behind students in the 50 states.”

Once he takes office in January, Mr. Fortuno intends to appoint his own education secretary, said Michelle Cuevas, the director of communications for the governor-elect’s transition. The No Child Left Behind Act requires Puerto Rico to take part in NAEP to receive federal Title I funding.

A version of this article appeared in the December 03, 2008 edition of Education Week