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Assessment

Secretary Picks Fellow Texan To Head Assessment Board

By Lynn Olson — September 04, 2002 5 min read

Secretary of Education Rod Paige has selected Darvin M. Winick, a fellow Texan and a former consultant to the Education Department, as the new chairman of the governing board that oversees the National Assessment of Educational Progress.

The appointment of Mr. Winick, a senior research fellow in the college of education at the University of Texas at Austin, underscores the importance the Bush administration places on the national assessment, an independent barometer of academic achievement across the 50 states. He will take over the post Oct. 1. The announcement of his appointment was made at the governing board’s meeting here last month.

Mr. Winick, a psychologist and career organizational consultant, has been active in Texas education politics since the early 1980s. He helped found the Texas Business and Education Coalition, an Austin-based group that has played an influential role in shaping and promoting education legislation in the state.

‘Technically Competent’

Although his appointment to the National Assessment Governing Board, or NAGB, which oversees the assessment, was not unexpected, the decision to name him chairman without any prior experience on the board was.

“He is one of those technically competent guys, like a plumber, who’s really put together the fine points of the Texas accountability system,” said Uri Treisman, the director of the Dana Center at UT-Austin. “You need people who are meticulous, and who know how to strategize about implementation schedules, the exact wording of accountability requirements, and Darvin Winick has been brilliant at this and really deserves a lot of credit.”

Mr. Winick will replace Mark D. Musick, the president of the Atlanta-based Southern Regional Education Board, as chairman. Mr. Musick, the only member of NAGB who has served on the board since it was established in 1988, has chaired the panel for half its 14 years. He has one year left to serve on the board.

“I think the board and Chairman Musick have done a really exceptional job of steering an independent, quality organization to do educational measurement for the country,” Mr. Winick said in an interview last week. The challenge ahead, he said, is to maintain that integrity given the additional focus on NAEP brought about by the “No Child Left Behind” Act of 2001, signed by President Bush in January.

Secretary Paige was expected to appoint as many as eight individuals to the board late last month, either replacing members whose terms expire this fall or reappointing them. The governing board is made up of 26 members who serve overlapping four-year terms. As vacancies occur, the secretary appoints new members, typically from among candidates nominated by the board itself. The secretary can also name individuals to the board, such as Mr. Winick

Mr. Paige chose Mr. Winick to fill one of the spots reserved for the general public.

Policy Actions Taken

During the NAGB meeting, Aug. 1-3, the board approved a number of policies to comply with requirements in the No Child Left Behind legislation, the revamped Elementary and Secondary Education Act. Those included:

  • Adopting a policy on informing parents about their right to exclude their children from NAEP participation. All schools participating in the assessment must notify parents in writing about the law’s “opt out” provision and keep a dated copy of the information given to parents. But the board’s resolution permits states, districts, or schools to determine how parents will be notified.
  • Endorsing procedures for providing public access to secure NAEP questions and instruments. The procedures give members of the public access to secure test items within 45 days of a written request, provided that test security is maintained. Participants must sign a confidentiality agreement documenting that they had the opportunity to review the items and understand that any disclosure, unauthorized use, or reproduction of materials will result in a felony charge.
  • Approving a pilot study of a nationally representative sample of 4th graders in charter schools, as part of the 2003 NAEP tests in reading and mathematics. In addition to the charter schools that would be included in the regular state samples, the pilot study would oversample charter schools in California, Michigan, and Texas, which have the highest proportion of charter school students, at an added cost of about $500,000. The board also agreed to expand the number of urban districts taking part in a “trial” urban assessment, which yields district-level results, from five in 2002 to 10 next year.
  • Endorsing a Spanish translation of the NAEP math tests, to be given to 4th and 8th graders in Puerto Rico next year on a “research and development” basis. Under federal law, the U.S. commonwealth must participate in NAEP reading and math tests beginning in 2003 to receive federal Title I aid. Yet Spanish, not English, is the language of instruction on the island. Too many technical, logistical, and resource questions remained unanswered, the board decided, to give a Spanish-language version of the NAEP reading test in Puerto Rico next year.
  • Changing the schedule of NAEP tests. The board voted to conduct long-term-trend assessments, which track changes in student performance since the 1960s, in reading and math only. The long-term trend in science will be dropped, partly because too many of the items need to be replaced. The board also voted to conduct the 2007 writing test in 8th grade only, eliminating the 4th grade assessment. Testing 12th graders remains an option. In addition, the board will limit the 2008 arts assessment to a national probe in grade 8, rather than expanding it to grades 4 and 12, as was previously recommended.

The changes were made to limit the testing burden on states and the costs of the assessments, given the mandated testing required under the new ESEA. Seniors will continue getting tested in reading and math once every four years, as is now the practice. The board also adopted the test framework, specifications, and background variables for the first-ever NAEP economics assessment, to be given to a national sample of 12th graders in 2006.

Examining Seniors

Roy Truby, the executive director of the board, recommended forming a commission to conduct a comprehensive review of the 12th grade NAEP. Mr. Truby said such a commission was needed because “there’s not a lot of confidence” in the survey of high school seniors, despite its importance. He agreed to devise a work plan for consideration at the board’s November meeting.

The board also plans to conduct a series of studies on how to improve the state sampling procedures under NAEP in order to increase the tests’ precision in measuring gaps in performance between different groups of students. Board member Edward H. Haertel, a measurement expert and professor of education at Stanford University, will chair a committee to oversee the work.

Meanwhile, the board continued its search for a replacement for Mr. Truby, who is retiring at the end of October, after almost 14 years as executive director.

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