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NCTE Position Statement

Resolution on Supporting Secretary Califano's Positions on National Testing

1977 NCTE Annual Business Meeting in New York, New York

Background

Speaking at the annual meeting of the College Entrance Examination Board, Joseph A. Califano Jr., Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare (HEW), announced on October 10, 1977, that his department would support major studies by the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Education, and the National Institute of Education, into what standardized achievement tests measure, what their strengths and weaknesses are, whether built-in cultural biases cause some students to fail the test consistently, and how the tests are being used throughout the nation.

Mr. Califano said that despite his support for minimum competency testing, which he termed "useful and necessary" if used "skillfully and sensitively," he believed such testing should remain under local and state control. In his remarks, Mr. Califano clearly implied that HEW did not support the desires of Rep. Ronald M. Mottl (D-Ohio) or Sen. Claiborn Pell (D-Rhode Island) to establish a federally-sponsored minimum competency program. Commenting on what he regarded as deficiencies in testing programs, Mr. Califano cited imprecision of scoring, cultural bias in questions, educational effects that cannot be measured by standardized tests and the tendency of some teachers to teach to the tests while ignoring other important areas of learning. Be it therefore

Resolution

Resolved, that NCTE commend HEW Secretary Joseph A. Califano Jr., for not committing resources from HEW to develop federally-financed national tests of minimum competencies, for being mindful of the deficiencies of current testing programs, and for requesting that the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Education, and the National Institute of Education undertake careful studies of the construction, the use, and the abuse of standardized achievement tests now being used in the nation's schools; and

     that NCTE offer to Secretary Califano its resources and those of its affiliates in these studies.

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