The U.S. Department of Education is offering every state and school district the opportunity to use voluntary national tests of fourth grade reading and eighth grade mathematics beginning in 1999. These rigorous tests will provide teachers and parents, for the first time, scores for individual students, measured against widely accepted national and international standards of excellence. They will give states, local communities, teachers and parents the kind of accurate information they need to help students master basic and advanced skills and strengthen academic performance. Individual test scores will not be collected by the federal government; states and local school districts will decide how to report and use the individual data.
The tests will be modeled on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), which is used in over 40 states. The NAEP tests are based on widely accepted standards developed by teachers, reading and mathematics specialists, curriculum specialists, researchers and parents. The NAEP standards reflect a national consensus of what students should know and be able to do when they reach these crucial stages of learning. Students' scores from the voluntary national tests will be linked to NAEP as well as the Third International Math and Science Study (TIMSS) which will allow students to know how they compare to their peers in 40 other countries.
To assist teachers, principals, parents and communities in using the tests effectively, the U.S. Department of Education, the National Science Foundation and others are developing a tool kit that includes information on how to prepare to meet these high standards, how to use test results to improve education and instruction, and a sample of possible components of high standards in reading and mathematics. As part of this effort, every year after the tests are given, the entire tests (along with answers, scoring guides, and other materials) will be released to the public and be available on the Internet. Educators may use this information to upgrade the curriculum, strengthen teacher preparation and professional development, and promote parental and community involvement in learning.
For more information, visit the tests web site at http://www.ed.gov/nationaltests or contact Missy Kincaid at the Department of Education at (202) 219-2042.
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