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Low-Performing Schools Could Skip Some State Tests, Under Va. Bill

A few interesting assessment-related bills are floating around statehouses.

Take this one in Virginia: the House of Delegates' education committee has approved a measure, HB2144, aimed at improving reading in low-performing elementary schools. But the way it gets at the issue is unusual: It lets students in low-performing schools skip the state's 3rd grade science and social studies tests, presumably to make room for a greater focus on reading improvement. Local media reports show at least one lawmaker had reservations about the bill because it could ease up the accountability heat for science and social studies.

In Illinois, lawmakers are considering a measure that would raise cut scores on state tests in anticipation of the common assessments, which are scheduled to roll out in 2014-15. My colleague Andrew Ujifusa explains it all for you at the State EdWatch blog. The Illinois measure is just the latest sign of how states are feeling the pressure to boost rigor in anticipation of tougher tests down the road. (Remember the little problem Florida had when it raised the cut score on its FCAT?)

Here's a curious assessment measure, out of Indiana. The House education committee approved a bill that denies state financial aid, grants, or scholarships to students who fail state tests. It's intended to put pressure on the system to monitor student achievement more aggressively and intervene earlier. It envisions schools giving high school juniors the placement tests administered by state colleges, and responding to the results with appropriate support. You have to wonder how this would really work if approved and implemented. If the supports lag behind the denials of aid, where does that leave students?

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