The Viriginia State Board of Education has postponed "minimum competency" tests in reading and math that Fairfax County 10th graders had been scheduled to take next week.
The state decided to postpone the tests because it has been unable to determine what the passing score on the tests will be.The tests are designed to measure a student's "survival skills" - tasks such as balancing checkbook or understanding a job application.
The Virginia General Assemble voted this year to require that all students pass statewide minimum competency tests before receiving high school diplomats, starting with thte class of 1981 or current high school sophomores.
The Virginia Department of Education wanted to give the tests on a experimental basis before setting a passing score, but had no time to administer the pilot test, said Richard Boyer, assistant Virginia superintendent of schools.
The department, therefore, was unable to recommend a passing score to the decision-making State Board of Education at its last meeting Sept. 21 and 22.
The state board, however, decided there was not enough time to "test the test" and directed the department to recommend a passing score at the board's next meeting Oct. 26 and 27. The tests will be given "as soon as possible" after the passing score is set "on a judgmental basis," Boyer said.
"We were under a real time constraint," said Hank Tulloch of the Virginia State Board of Education. "If we don't give the test soon, then we're not going to have time to remedy the problems of those who fail by the time they're supposed to graduate in 1981.
"Hopefully, most of our children have learned to function in society by way of what we have offered them in school: they know how to get a driver's license or go to a store and not get gypped. We don't think most students will have difficulty with the tests, but for those who do, we're going to have to correct the problems before they graduate."
Minimum competency testing is national trend that attempts to ensure that schools are preparing students for practical problems in adult life. It results from public demand that a high school diploma assure society that the graduate has certain skills, Tulloch said.
The reading and math portions of the test are commercially developed, but the state experts to develop its own tests in the next few years.
The reading test was developed by a firm called Instructional Objectives Exchange of Los Angeles, and the math test was developed by the Ilimois-based Scholastic Testing Service.
Fairfax County, which has developed it own requirements for minimum competencies and is pressing the state to be allowed to give its own test, will give locally developed tests in social studies and job seeking skills in the spring, said Ronald Savage, curriculum specialists for Fairfax schools.
The state required that students reach a minimum level of competency in social studies are job seeking, but allowed localities to develop their own tests in these areas until the state tests are completed.
Arlington gave its version of minimum competency tests to ninth grade students in February, before the state decided there should be statewide rather than local tests. A large number of students failed and alarmed school officials.
Besides requesting local authority to develop minimum competency tests, Fairfax County has asked the state to resolve several other issues concerning the minimum competency testing program.
Among them are:
What grade level students should take the test?
How many times should the test be given in one year?
How many times can a student take the test?
Who pays for a student's remedial training if he fails the test?
Should some sort of "certificate of attendance" in lieu of a diploma be given a student who has completed high school but fails the test?
The county also disputes the state requirement calling for localities to develop their own tests in social studies and job seeking skills, only to have them replaced by state tests in two years.
"By that time we will have poured a lot of resources into developing the tests," said Fairfax School Superintendent S. John Davis. "We would like to keep those tests rather than go with the state's in a couple of years."