State News Roundup

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The New York State Board of Regents should ban the mass use of standardized tests for children before 3rd grade, and develop alternative methods of assessing their progress, an advocacy group argues in a report issued last week.

Based on a survey of districts' use of such tests in the early grades, the report by the New York Public Interest Research Group found "widespread overuse and misuse of standardized tests."

For example, it notes, 75 percent of schools surveyed test pupils in kindergarten, 88 percent test 1st graders, and nearly all--93 percent--test 2nd graders. Moreover, it states, schools often violate the American Psychological Association's guidelines for administering tests, and most fail to conduct independent studies of tests' validity.

Christopher Carpenter, a spokesman for the department of education, said the board "makes clear to schools that the use of standardized tests as the sole criterion for [promotion] is simply not sound practice." But, he added, the board would not favor an outright ban, since "there are times when [tests] are appropriate."

A federal appeals court has ruled that Virginia's system of appointing local school-board members does not discriminate against blacks.

The Nov. 24 decision by a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit upholds a 1988 ruling by U.S. District Judge Richard L. Williams in a case brought by the American Civil Liberties Union. (See Education Week, Sept. 7, 1988.)

The ruling allows the state to remain the only one in the nation without elected school boards. In Virginia, local governments appoint board members.

The plaintiffs in the case had argued that the system was discriminatory, charging that some jurisdictions with large black populations had few or no black school- board members.

However, the appeals court noted that blacks make up 18 percent of the state's voting population and an equal proportion of the school-board membership statewide.

The New York State Department of Education has recommended tightening security on its statewide Regents examinations by sending copies to schools no more than a day in advance of the tests.

But the new policy is contingent on a $600,000 appropriation to pay for shipping and packing crates.

The proposal is aimed at curbing the possibility for "evil deeds or carelessness," according to Christopher Carpenter, a department spokesman.

In June, the department canceled the scheduled Regents examination on chemistry after The New York Post published the test's answers on the front page to demonstrate the widespread availability of purloined copies.

Vol. 09, Issue 14

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