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Saturday, February 12, 2005 - Page updated at 12:00 a.m.

Measure would cut "fill-in-the-bubble" achievement tests

The Associated Press

OLYMPIA — The national, standardized "fill-in-the-bubble" achievement tests familiar to so many students may cease to be required in Washington schools.

A proposed law would eliminate the requirement that all third-, sixth- and ninth-graders take the Iowa Test of Basic Skills and the Iowa Test of Education Development.

"If there's anything teachers need, it's not another state test — it's tools they can use to understand what's happening in the classroom," said Terry Bergeson in a telephone interview from Phoenix.

Bergeson, the state's superintendent of public instruction, and former Gov. Gary Locke requested the legislation.

The House Education Committee is expected to vote early next week on the bill sponsored by its chairman, Rep. Dave Quall, D-Mount Vernon. He said a version of the measure will likely move forward.

The Iowa tests assess student skills in reading, language arts and math. Scores are reported as percentile points, comparing a student's performance with that of others across the nation.

The state also has developed its own test — the Washington Assessment of Student Learning — to determine whether students meet standards in core subjects.

State and federal law require that students in grades three through eight and in 10th grade take the reading and math WASL by 2006. There are additional WASL tests in other grades on other subjects.

Eliminating the Iowa tests would save the state about $650,000 a year — money that would be better spent helping classroom teachers, Bergeson said.

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That's fine with Ric Williams, director of curriculum and assessment for Everett Public Schools. The district has already dropped the Iowa tests for fifth- and eighth-graders.

"We're not really interested in how our students are doing compared to other kids," he said. "We want to see how they are doing compared to the standards."

And they want to know quickly, so they can make any needed changes. Iowa test results can take weeks or months.

Not everyone wants to see the national tests go.

Mary Kenfield, government relations director for the state's Parent Teacher Association, said parents like the test because the results are easily understood and let them know how their children compare with others. That can be important information for students planning to go out of state for work or college, she said.

Rich Wood, spokesman for the Washington Education Association, said teachers need multiple ways of measuring students, and the Iowa tests should be one tool they can use.

The union represents 76,000 school employees.

"Let's keep options open for teachers," he said.

Copyright © 2005 The Seattle Times Company

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