National Test Defeated

K-12 Testing

The U.S. Congress has approved an appropriations bill that includes an amendment to the federal government's General Education Provisions Act to prohibit piloting, field-testing, implementing, administering or distributing a national test, unless otherwise authorized by law. The administration can continue to develop and refine items for a possible national exam.


This would appear to end the latest efforts to implement a national test of individual students. President Bush had proposed such an exam, which was defeated in Congress by the Democrats. President Clinton's administration began to use general Education Department appropriations to develop a national exam, until Congress last year prohibited anything more than item development. That prohibition was initiated by a coalition of conservative Republicans and African American and Latino Democrats in the House. (See Examiner Winter 1990-91, Spring 1991, Summer 1991, Winter 1991-92, Fall 1992, Winter 1996-97, Summer 1997, Fall 1997)


This year's measure also requires the National Assessment Governing Board (NAGB) to report on the purpose and intended use of any proposed national test.


Flaws in NAEP

The National Academy of Science (NAS) recently released a major study of the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), Grading the Nation's Report Card. This report maintains that the score levels set on NAEP are "fundamentally flawed." The legislation barring the national test calls on NAGB to respond to these long-standing charges (see Examiner, Fall 1991, Spring 1992).


The legislation also directs NAS to study whether items from NAEP can be embedded in state or district exams in order to provide "a common measure of individual student performance." NAEP provides national and state-level data (from voluntarily participating states) on student achievement, but does not provide data on individuals.


--The NAS report is available from the National Academy Press, 2101 Constitution Ave., NW, Washington, DC 20418; (800) 624-6242, or on the web at