Better Proposal Said To Win Assessment Project for E.T.S.

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y Correspondent John Chaffee Jr. in Denver contributed to this report.

Washington--The federal government will transfer responsibility for administering the National Assessment of Educational Progress from a state-supported consortium to the Educational Testing Service (ets) because the ets has promised to implement a wide range of improvements in the assessment, a government spokesman said last week.

The testing service--which administers standardized achievement tests, including the Scholastic Aptitude Test--last month won a competition for the $20.3-million, five-year grant to run the assessment, which has been administered since 1969 by the Education Commission of the States.

Student achievement is measured annually by the assessment, through tests given to 9-, 13-, and 17-year olds.

Winning Proposal

The ets's winning proposal, according to Jeffrey Schiller, who oversees the assessment for the National Institute of Education, included plans to "use more state-of-the-art procedures in test development" and to "orient its analyses of the results more toward state and local policymakers."

But the executive director of the inter-state commission last week contended that the ets won the grant in part because two officials of the testing service were involved in an evaluation of the assessment in 1981.

Robert C. Andringa said the ets "had it easier" because its president, Gregory R. Anrig, and the official who will run the assessment for the ets, Archie E. Lapointe, "had total access to the national assessment data, staff, and records."

Mr. Lapointe was a co-director of the foundation-supported study that analyzed and recommended changes in the assessment; Mr. Anrig served on a seven-member advisory committee for the project. (See Education Week, Jan. 12, 1982.)

In a telephone interview, Mr. Anrig acknowledged that he and Mr. Lapointe were "well informed about the strengths and weaknesses of the national assessment."

"The experience Mr. Lapointe had on the [assessment study] is a strength," he said. "That's one of the reasons I wanted to have him come to ets And I have known something about the national assessment for a long time, having been commissioner of education in Massachusetts, and I think that's a strength."

"We certainly didn't have more access [to information] than the Education Commission of the States did," added Mr. Lapointe.

Proposal Judged 'Superior'

Mr. Schiller of the institute said the testing service submitted a proposal that was judged "superior" by a "very credible" panel that included four researchers from the institute and four education professionals.

The ets proposal, he said, was especially strong in three areas:

Making the data from the assessment more useful to states. Although critics of the assessment have asked for student-achievement data to be divided on a state-by-state basis (it currently is divided only by regions of the country), that has not been possible because the sample sizes from each state are too small, Mr. Schiller said. Enlarging the sample enough to make the state-by-state breakdown possible would require twice the approximately $3.9 million spent on the program each year, he said.

"Testing Packages"

The testing service, according to Mr. Lapointe, will make available to states "testing packages" that are based on the assessment's test questions, which states can administer as part of their own standardized testing programs. "The states can use them and compare the results with the national results," he said.

Increasing the role of the assessment's policymaking committee. The 17-member committee, whose membership is required by federal law to represent the spectrum of the education profession, will include "individuals of stature, leaders," Mr. Lapointe said. "Previously, some of the individuals chosen were not of high visibility or of great knowledge of the issues."

The policymaking committee will also be given a permanent staff of its own, and it will be divided into subcommittees that will meet periodically, he said. The committee had been criticized previously because it met only four times per year and assumed only a superficial role in setting policy for the assessment.

Providing a wider range of statistical analyses of the data collected. Among the new analyses, Mr. Lapointe said, will be a method of testing the "hypothesis that there are things such as problem-solving skills that human beings apply across a variety of subject areas. We'll try to understand how they relate across curricula," he said.

"The ets brings to this a tremendous technical capability," he added. "There's equipment here that is very difficult to match anywhere else. All of that is going to be at the service of the national assessment. It will help do a lot more for the [money]."

The loss of the assessment grant will mean that the Education Commission of the States will lose about half of its 117 employees, according to Mr. Andringa.

The commission currently receives approximately half of its $6-million annual budget from the federal government, as part of the assessment grant, and half from funds from member states.

After the assessment is transferred in July, he said, there will be ''no change" in the commission's basic mission to conduct and dissemi-nate research, provide technical assistance, and organize educational forums for state officials.

Mr. Andringa added that the reaction from governors and state legislators to the loss of the grant was "mixed" because some state officials have suggested in the past that administering the assessment was contrary to the state-oriented functions of the commission.

Vol. 02, Issue 23

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