Montgomery County's school superintendent wants aptitude tests dropped from the school system, claiming they have never been an accurate or fair way to gauge a student's potential.

"Group ability tests are being thrown out and discredited everywhere," said interim Superintendent Dr. Edward Andrews. "They're another form of achievement tests more than any real indication of a student's ability."

For the last 10 years county educators have assumed they were measuring academic potential with the "Cognitive Abilities Test" given students in grades three, five, seven, nine and 11. In contrast to the county schools achievement tests, the aptitude exams, which consist of nonverbal, math and verbal sections, are supposed to predict what a student can do if he works up to his potential.

Teachers use the exam in ranking students, and the scores also provide in theory a measure of the school system's success.

But aptitude tests have come under fire nationwide as being discriminatory and simply another measure of achievement that should not be used for predicting potential. "If someone came up to your door and offered to sell you your child's lifelong potential for $2, would you let him in?," said Steve Frankel, director of education accountability. "That's what we're doing with these tests."

The attack is based on findings by testing experts that the scores on aptitude tests closely match scores on [TEXT OMITTED FROM SOURCE]

The aptitude tests given Montgomery students are sometimes inaccurately called IQ tests. Both kinds of tests are designed to measure ability to learn, rather than what one has already learned, but IQ tests are administered by individual examiners to individual students, while the county's aptitude tests are standardized exams given large numbers of students at the same time.

While Montgomery County is moving to abandon aptitude testing, Prince George's County school officials are standing by the tests, especially as a tool to spot students who could be reading better than they are.

"My position is that what aptitude measures is the student's ability to think," said Prince George's school official Victor Rice. "It measures his ability to draw inferences and make metaphors. Can he come up with an equation, can he reason?"

Prince George's educators use only the nonverbal section of the cognitive abilities test, but they say students are not classified on the basis of aptitude tests alone.

Montgomery County school board member Carol Wallace said she wants the board to discuss the superintendent's plan because aptitude tests contrasted wth achievement tests are an important means of "finding how well the system is working."