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Compared with elementary pupils, high-school students are skeptical about the value of standardized tests and have little motivation to perform well on them, a study by a University of Michigan researcher has found.

Surveying nearly 1,000 students in four states in grades 2-11, Scott G. Paris found that the proportion who said they considered test scores valid measures of student abilities declined sharply as students progressed through school.

Perhaps as a result of such skepticism, Mr. Paris found, older students are more likely than younger students to try half-heartedly, to cheat, or to guess.

The findings throw into question the validity of test results, particularly for low-achieving students, Mr. Paris suggests.

Short-term academic training has little effect on student performance on the Scholastic Aptitude Test, but educational experiences throughout high school are related to test performance, two studies show.

In the first study, Linda E. Brody of Johns Hopkins University and Camilla Persson Benbow of Iowa State University administered the sat to 244 academically talented 7th graders, who had taken three-week summer courses in mathematics, science, writing, and foreign languages. The courses had "little or no impact on sat scores," they report.

In the second study, the researchers found that talented students who had taken more higher-level courses in high school tended to register larger test-score gains. The findings confirm the College Board's position that the sat "is a test of aptitude (or developed abilities) and that experiences both in and out of school over time influence sat scores," they write in the December 1990 issue of the Journal of Educational Psychology.

The growing consensus among researchers that academic tracking is ineffective is borne out by more than 60 years' worth of research on the topic, a new study suggests.

Reviewing all research on ability grouping published in English from 1927 to the present, Robert E. Slavin of Johns Hopkins University found no evidence that such grouping is instructionally effective. He urged educators to "consider more fully how secondary schools can adapt instruction to the needs of a heterogeneous student body."

Copies of "Achievement Effects of Ability Grouping in Secondary Schools: A Best-Evidence Synthesis" are available for $7 each, prepaid, from the National Center on Effective Secondary Schools, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 1025 West Johnson St., Madison, Wis. 53706.--rr

Vol. 10, Issue 17

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