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Department of Education wants to do away with a national test

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Public schools might have one less test to administer next school year.

The Department of Education is proposing to save about $500,000 a year by cutting TerraNova, the test that shows parents how their children are doing compared with students nationally.

Schools Superintendent Kathryn Mata­yo­shi said TerraNova is no longer needed because of the adoption of common national standards. New tests are being developed based on the standards that will allow comparisons across states.

But those tests won’t be ready to give to students until the 2014-15 school year.

In the meantime, the DOE said, it will rely on the National Assessment of Educational Prog­ress to determine how Hawaii students are measuring up against their mainland peers.

Hawaii students are chosen at random to participate in the NAEP, called the "Nation’s Report Card," which creates a picture of how students in all 50 states are doing in core subjects.

A student’s NAEP results, however, are not shared with parents because they are meant more as a statistical guide for educators.

Currently, public school students in grades 3 through 8 and grade 10 take two big standardized tests a year: the Hawaii State Assessment, whose results gauge proficiency in reading and math and determine whether a school is making adequate yearly prog­ress, and TerraNova.

Some schools have raised concerns about TerraNova because it doesn’t test students on Hawaii’s standards.

Officials also say TerraNova often gets lost in the test-taking shuffle, especially since it doesn’t count against a school if a student performs poorly.

"What we’re trying to do is balance the testing," said Cara Tani­mura, director of the department’s systems accountability office. "If it’s not relevant for our purposes, we’d rather use the time" for instruction.

To cut TerraNova from schools, the department needs the approval of the Legislature, which has to repeal a provision requiring schools to administer "norm-referenced testing," which compares state scores with national marks. A bill is moving through the Legislature to do that, and has so far run into no snags.

In testimony, Mata­yo­shi said cutting out the test will give students extra time — the equivalent of two class periods — for other activities.

She also said the NAEP gives Hawaii a good idea of how Hawaii ranks nationally.

"Additionally," she added, "as the common assessments are developed and administered online, participating states will have another national measure."

Hawaii has seen gains on the TerraNova in recent years, and last school year, 77 percent of students were average or above average in reading and math — in line with the national norm group.

Meanwhile, about half of school complexes in the islands met TerraNova’s national achievement norm in reading, while 17 complexes —or 40 percent — met the national performance norm in math.

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