Assessment

Extra Funding Provided to Sustain NAEP

In fiscal 2009 budget, Bush also seeks more money to expand tests.
By Kathleen Kennedy Manzo — February 06, 2008 2 min read
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National assessments in core subjects will proceed as planned, now that the federal testing program has received additional funding in the current year’s budget.

And with an increase proposed in President Bush’s budget for next fiscal year, the program would have enough money to cover all planned assessments through 2011, as well as to expand a sampling of urban districts and pay for state-level tests of 12th graders.

“We are so relieved, because we don’t have to call anything off at this point,” said Peggy G. Carr, the associate commissioner for assessment for the National Center for Education Statistics, the arm of the Department of Education that administers the exam program. “We can go ahead and plan for the most important components of the 2008 activities in preparation for the 2009 assessments.”

The National Assessment of Educational Progress was threatened with cutbacks in several core areas last fall because of a projected budget shortfall. The governing board that sets policy for NAEP had been expected to consider recommendations at its meeting this month to cancel scheduled tests in economics, foreign languages, geography, and world history, and to scale back testing in U.S. history, civics, and writing. (“U.S. Testing Poised to Be Scaled Back,” Nov. 28, 2007.)

Gauging Preparedness

The fiscal 2008 Education Department budget, part of an omnibus spending bill President Bush signed in December, includes some $100 million for NAEP, with a $10 million increase over the previous year that federal officials hadn’t anticipated. The president’s budget proposal for fiscal 2009, which begins Oct. 1, would boost the assessment budget by more than a third.

While Congress is expected to make significant changes to the proposal, there has been bipartisan support for expanding the testing program, including the addition of state-level samples on some tests for 12th graders.

The increase would provide money for preparation of tests in U.S. history, civics, and geography that are scheduled for 2010. It would also cover the expansion of the 12th grade assessment in mathematics and reading in 2011 to include samples of students from each state. President Bush has urged state-level testing of high school seniors as a way of boosting accountability and providing state-by-state comparisons.

Ms. Carr said the NCES hopes to conduct a pilot study for the state-level 12th grade assessments next year.

The National Assessment Governing Board would also have enough money for research and validity studies for new indicators on that assessment, which would allow reporting on students’ levels of preparedness for college and the workforce.

Student performance is currently reported in terms of scale scores and achievement levels—defined as “basic,” “proficient,” and “advanced.” The preparedness levels would explain what the results meant in terms of the skills students needed to enter community college, succeed in four-year institutions, or qualify for different types of jobs.

A version of this article appeared in the February 13, 2008 edition of Education Week as Extra Funding Provided to Sustain NAEP


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