National Standards and Testing Fact Sheet

Urban School Systems Across America Join Movement For National Standards and Tests in the Basic Skills

Growing Nationwide Support for National Standards and Tests: Fifteen urban school systems, including the three largest (New York City, Los Angeles, and Chicago) and six of the seven largest, have pledged to participate in the President's voluntary national testing initiative. Located in eleven states, together they represent approximately 7% of the nation's 4th and 8th graders. The commitment of these large school systems -- through partnerships of local school boards, superintendents and teachers unions -- demonstrates that support for the President's call for national standards and tests is truly nationwide. Students from Ft. Lauderdale to Seattle, from New York to Los Angeles, from San Antonio to Chicago, will be prepared to meet the same basic skills in reading and math. For the first time, parents, teachers and the public in these communities will know how well students perform compared to national standards in reading and math, international benchmarks in math, and to students in other cities and states throughout the nation.

High Standards for All Students: With this announcement, urban educators and communities send a clear signal that students in inner city schools can and should be held to the same challenging standards that are being set for all students throughout the nation. These communities recognize that setting high standards in the basic skills for all students is a prerequisite for improved teaching and learning. Research and experience shows that students can meet high standards, and that low expectations lead to low achievement. While this step alone will not improve teaching and learning for students in urban schools, it will guide and catalyze efforts to strengthen curriculum, provide training to teachers, increase parental and community involvement, and support the necessary investments at the local, state, and national levels to improve our schools.

A Challenge to Educators: Use Tests for Improvement and Accountability: President Clinton challenged local educators to use the test information to improve teaching and learning and to strengthen accountability. The U.S. Department of Education will make available information that describes the knowledge and skills students must master in order to meet the national standards. Each year, once the tests are given, the test items will be released to the public to further clarify what students must know and be able to do to meet the standards. Educators should use this information to upgrade the curriculum, strengthen teacher preparation and professional development, and promote parental and community involvement in learning. They also should use the results of the tests to provide needed help to low performing students. Finally, they should incorporate the test results into school and school district report cards, that will hold administrators and teachers accountable for poor aggregate performance.

A Challenge to the Nation: Provide Students and Schools With the Help They Need: President Clinton challenged the nation to support students in urban areas and throughout the nation so they can reach high standards in the basics, and continue to learn for a lifetime. He called on the Congress to enact his America Reads initiative to promote early literacy and prepare students to reach national standards in reading, and to pass his new initiative to recruit and prepare teachers for urban and poor rural areas. Further, President Clinton pledged to continue to explore additional steps that can be taken to help prepare students in our cities for the 21st century.

National Tests Based on Widely Accepted National Standards: The national tests in the basic skills areas of 4th grade reading and 8th grade math will be modeled on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). The NAEP tests are based on widely accepted standards developed by parents, teachers, reading and mathematics specialists, curriculum specialists and researchers. The NAEP standards reflect a national consensus of what students should know and be able to do when they reach these critical stages of learning. In addition, the 8th grade math tests will also be linked to the Third International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS), so that student scores can be compared to international benchmarks as well as national standards.

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