NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Governors Promoting National Tests

December 23, 1998

With President Clinton's proposal for a national student achievement test in controversy, the states' governors are trying to develop tests of their own.

  • Forty-three states are drafting new reading and math tests for their schoolchildren and 28 are working on science and history tests.
  • But there is no common measure for those tests, so the outcomes vary widely and comparisons among states are inappropriate.
  • One way to get around this would be to use a technique called matrix sampling -- having different children in each class answer different sets of questions, so that enough data would be developed to compare classes, schools, districts and states.
  • To sidestep the complaint that schoolchildren already face test overload, a technique known as embedding could be used -- supplying 15 or 20 questions that would take only a half-hour complete.

The only measure now, the National Assessment of Educational Progress tests, produce numbers so large that they are no use when it comes to measuring how well a school or district is performing.

Teacher assessment is another area in which the states are cooperating. Thirty-five states have joined a consortium that, beginning in 2003, will test and license new teachers -- who now are certified differently in each state.

Source: June Kronholz, "States Take Lead in National Tests for Schoolchildren," Wall Street Journal, December 23, 1998.


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