National Test Contractor Agrees to Revised Accord

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The contractor that had agreed last year to write President Clinton's proposed voluntary national tests for students is still up for the challenge, even after an independent board revamped the contract.

The Washington-based American Institutes for Research, which is heading the seven-member contractor consortium, planned to accept by late last week the altered statement of work and submit a response, said Archie LaPointe, the director of the center for assessment at the research center.

"Our actions are speaking louder than words," Mr. LaPointe said. "They reflect our serious intention on the part of AIR and all of its partners to move forward."

On Jan. 22, the National Assessment Governing Board, a 26-member independent panel given authority over the tests by Congress last year, approved significant revisions to the outline for the creation of the tests in 4th grade reading and 8th grade math, including pushing the first administration of the tests to 2001. Mr. Clinton had wanted them given next year. ("National Panel Delays Clinton's Proposed Voluntary Tests," Jan. 28, 1997.)

The bipartisan governing board must still decide whether to accept the research center's response. The consortium is being paid $13 million for the first year of the testing contract. If Congress approves further work, the contract would run five years and be worth $65 million.

GOP Renews Opposition

But once again last week, members of Congress, led by the chairman of the House Education and the Workforce Committee, expressed their opposition to the testing plan. Turning back the concerns of Democrats on the panel, the committee passed legislative language proposed by its chairman, Rep. Bill Goodling, R-Pa., that would prevent federal funds from being used to "develop, plan, implement (including pilot-testing or field-testing), or administer" the proposed national tests.

Under an agreement hammered out in Congress and signed by the president last year, the administration was prohibited from using fiscal 1998 money to create the tests. Julie Green, a spokeswoman for Secretary of Education Richard W. Riley, called the language "a violation of last year's agreement."

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