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Cornelia Smith Orr Will Direct NAGB


A top Florida education official has been named as executive director of the somewhat obscure but influential board that sets policy for the National Assessment of Educational Progress, or NAEP.

Cornelia Smith Orr, who currently serves as an assistant deputy commissioner of education in Florida, will take over the top post at the National Assessment Governing Board. Orr's move was made final by the 26-member governing board at its quarterly meeting in Seattle over the weekend. No date has been set for Orr to start her work with the board, which is headquartered in Washington. She will replace Charles Smith, who left the post to take a position with the ACT Inc.


Orr has an extensive background in the nitty-gritty of testing. She's currently the assistant deputy commissioner of accountability, research, and measurement at the Florida Department of Education in Tallahassee, where she oversees the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test, or FCAT. She received a Ph.D. in educational research, measurement, and evaluation from Florida State University in 1982, with a focus on psychometrics, research design, and statistical methods. (When I said the nitty-gritty, I meant the nitty-gritty.)

She's directed a number of Florida K-12 and postsecondary assessment programs, including exams in educator certification and college-placement. She also managed testing programs for Leon County Schools, in Florida.

In a statement, board officials say that some of Orr's top tasks will include ramping up NAGB's efforts to test college and workforce "preparedness," an ongoing project, and overseeing an expansion of NAEP tests of big-city school districts. I'll bet that she'll also be asked to help define NAEP's role in the movement toward setting international standards for states, an area of growing interest inside the Beltway and beyond. What other areas would you like her to take on?


Orr's title in Florida has been "deputy commissioner of accountability, research, and measurement," not management, as I originally wrote. This, according to the state's department of education. I corrected it.

Florida's state test produced inflated reading scores in grade 3 a few years
ago. This was not addressed until the next year. Then , the BUROS Institute investigated and suggested it unwise to tie a single indicator to high stakes.
Still, Florida does that in grades 3-8.
Are other states' tests even worse?

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