Thu, Jan. 23

State to combine standardized tests<br><i>Area superintendents not certain of test's validity</i>

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C-OC Superintendent Julie Larson said that, although she wants more details, she likes the idea of one test.

The plan, proposed by Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Horne, will essentially combine questions from the national Stanford 9 exam with the Arizona Instrument to Measure Standards. Under Horne's plan, students will face only one standardized exam per year instead of the two currently required.

The combining of the two standardized tests will be accomplished by "embedding" questions from the Stanford 9 exam into AIMS.

Horne said the new test would allow more time to be devoted to instruction in the classroom. He expects the end result to be higher test scores for Arizona students.

Before the testing time can be reduced in Arizona's schools, the Department of Education must hire a testing company to write the exam. The test must then be validated before it can be used.

Area school district superintendents are withholding judgement on the plan because they simply do not know very much about it.

Kathleen Fleenor, superintendent at Clarkdale-Jerome School District, isn't convinced the new embedded test will actually cut the testing time in half as Horne has predicted.

"The kicker is that instead of two tests, now you'll have one long test with all the standards," Fleenor said. "I think it's going to water down the data and maybe invalidate the test."

Fleenor said she thinks the primary reason the state is trying to combine the two standardized tests is simply to save money. She said AIMS has been very expensive to score because of the writing component.

"I see too many opportunities for error," Fleenor said.

Mingus Union School District Superintendent Sharyl Allen said she likes the goal of reducing time spent testing. "There is a tremendous amount of time spent in preparing students for test-taking strategies," she said. "The stake are extremely high."

Allen said she cannot really judge the concept of combining the tests because she just doesn't have much information at this time.

Although Cottonwood-Oak Creek School District Superintendent Julie Larson agrees that not enough information is available, she does like the idea of reducing testing time. "I applaud that they're trying to put it all into one test," she said.

The State Board of Education hopes to have the new embedded standardized test implemented by the 2004-05 school year, or at least have it partially field tested by then for full implementation in the 2005-06 school year.

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