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A Few Good Test Experts

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If you've got a strong interest in school policy and testing (seems likely if you're reading this blog), you might consider making a bid for one of the soon-to-be-open spots on the National Assessment Governing Board.

NAGB, as it is known in Washington, sets policy for the National Assessment of Educational Progress. That gives the governing board an outsized influence on testing nationwide since many states look to NAEP, "the nation's report card," in trying to craft their own exams in various subjects.

While NAGB members are appointed by the secretary of education, it's an independent board, designed to go about its business without political interference of any kind. The board is made up of members from many different backgrounds who serve four-year terms. When one member's term is up, the board seeks to replace that individual with someone from the same professional background or interest area.

For 2009, the governing board is seeking five new members: an elementary school principal; two members of the general public, or parents; a state legislator from the Democratic Party; and a testing and measurement expert.

The current NAGB members who are scheduled to leave next summer are Gregory Cizek, a professor from the University of North Carolina; Cynthia Nava, a Democratic state legislator from New Mexico; Robin C. Hall, a principal from Atlanta; Alan J. Friedman, a science consultant from New York; and James S. Lanich, the president of California Business for Education Excellence.

Organizations and individuals can nominate people for consideration as board members. Interested parties can call (202) 357-7504, and read more about the process and the board itself here. The deadline is Sept. 30 of this year. Nominations can be submitted to Mary Crovo, Deputy Executive Director, the National Assessment Governing Board, 800 North Capitol St., Suite 825, Washington, DC, 20002-4233.

The board conducts quarterly meetings around the country, and the tone of those discussions, at least as long as I've been covering them, is unfailingly collegial.

In addition to having an interest in testing, it helps to have thick skin. It's not unusual for the governing board's policies—on test content and policies such as those for dealing with limited-English students and those with disabilities—to be criticized by researchers and elected officials.

But that's as much a measure of the importance of the board's work as anything else.

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