President Bush wants to use the National Assessment of Educational Progress to compare the reading and math skills of 12th graders in every state, but the same cannot be said of state testing officials.
“This effort will be fraught with problems that include a lack of student interest in participating in the assessment, as well as a probable lack of motivation on the part of the students who do,” warn members of the Association for State Assessment Personnel in a letter to the board that oversees NAEP.
In addition, says the letter, problems over the inclusion of students with disabilities on state NAEP tests in grades 4 and 8 could be even worse for 12th graders selected for the exams. States have expressed concerns that differences in the extent to which special education students are included in NAEP exams across states make it hard to compare results.
At its quarterly meeting, held May 13-15 in Denver, the National Assessment Governing Board reviewed some of the letters sent in so far in response to a proposal to expand the 12th grade assessment, which now yields results only at the national level and not for individual states.
A national commission convened by NAGB to study the future of the 12th grade NAEP issued a recommendation in March for state-level tests in reading, mathematics, science, and writing for high school seniors. It also advocated redesigning the tests to report on students’ readiness for college, employment, and the military. (“Panel Recommends State-Level NAEP for 12th Graders,” March 10, 2004.)
The letter from state testing personnel—which was also sent on behalf of the Education Information Advisory Committee, a group representing state education agencies that reviews federal data-collection efforts—encourages the governing board “to think long and hard” before making a final decision about implementing a 12th grade statewide NAEP.
Under existing state accountability systems, school districts often are concerned about whether the tests have any consequences for students, said Louis M. Fabrizio, the co-chairman of the advisory committee’s task force on assessment and the director of accountability services for the North Carolina education department.
Because NAEP is given to only a sample of students, and the students do not get reports back telling them how they’ve done, “the concerns are even greater, as far as whether students are going to take the tests seriously,” Mr. Fabrizio said.
So far, NAGB has conducted nearly a dozen meetings to brief groups on the commission’s proposals and to get reaction.
Charter School Study
During the governing board’s meeting, it also reviewed plans to report on a nationally representative sample of charter schools whose 4th graders took NAEP reading and math tests last year. The original plan had been to report the results this past January. That report now will be released in December.
It will include descriptive data on the characteristics of the participating schools, as well as results broken out for various student subgroups, such as by race and ethnicity.
The National Center for Education Statistics, the branch of the Department of Education that runs NAEP, plans to use a statistical technique known as “hierarchical linear modeling” to help determine whether certain charter school characteristics, such as their governance, can help explain any achievement discrepancies between those independent public schools and other public schools beyond those accounted for by differences in their students.
A version of this article appeared in the May 26, 2004 edition of Education Week as State Officials Urge Caution On 12th Grade NAEP