State Education Department to Create Combined Annual Test

MARCH 13, 2006 - Posted at 2:47 p.m. CST

LITTLE ROCK, AR - Arkansas education officials voted to combine the state's benchmark exam with a national standardized test today to cut down on the amount of time teachers and students are focusing on testing.

The Arkansas Board of Education voted 5-to-4 to develop an annual test that will combine the national Iowa Test of Basic Skills with the Arkansas benchmark exams.

The Iowa test, which compares the achievement levels of Arkansas students with a national sample of students who take the same test, is administered to students in April.

The benchmark exams, which determine whether students are achieving at grade level is required by the federal No Child Left Behind Act, are administered to Arkansas students in February and March.

Advocates of the combined test said it will solve the problem of the state's students spending too much time preparing and taking the tests.

However, representatives of two statewide education groups said there was no need to change the state's current testing program.  Leaders of the Arkansas Education Association and the Arkansas School Boards Association both objected to the proposed change.

The decision isn't final: the U.S. Department of Education would have to revierw any changes in the state's testing program to make sure it complies with the No Child Left Behind Act.

(Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)