Federal Aid: The Head of the Class

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At Keppel's suggestion, the Carnegie Corporation is financing the preparation of tests that will measure achievement in reading, language arts, math, social studies, fine arts, vocational education and citizenship. Some tests will be tried out in public schools this winter. The tests have already become controversial —and widely misunderstood. Keppel's plan is not aimed at examining every U.S. schoolchild exhaustively and pitting the kids against one another. Tests would be given only to a relatively few children on a sample basis. No one child would take a whole battery of tests, and no teacher could profitably direct his teaching toward the questions.

One committee that is developing such tests is headed by Ralph W. Tyler, director of California's Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences. He claims that tests are needed because "personal views, distorted reports and journalistic impressions are now the only sources of public opinion, and the schools are frequently attacked and frequently defended without having evidence to support either claim." His committee wants to give the tests to four age levels: 9, 13, 17 and, for comparison, to some adults.

A small-scale version of similar tests in 1960 produced some surprising facts. Among high school seniors, 15% saw nothing wrong with couldn't hardly: 26% said like he should: 17% saw no need to capitalize british: 36% wanted to stick an apostrophe somewhere in the possessive its: more than 50% could not spell breathe; 83% could not explain double jeopardy; 88% did not know what an indictment was; 86% failed to understand that the year A.D. 1002 came in the 11th century; and on a multiple-choice question, 24% could not select the first words of the national anthem.

Further testing can help educators determine just what else it is that U.S. schools are doing badly or not doing at all, and it is Keppel's hope that after enough information has been gathered and analyzed, positive steps can be taken to elevate the overall quality of education.

Visions of New Ventures. Once that is achieved, the American school system can enjoy the prospect of yet newer ventures into learning. Francis Ianni, Keppel's research chief, envisions new skills in computerization as the next big step. "We can look for improvement even in the way kids do homework," says Ianni. "In each home could be a carrel with a controlled environment complete with the benefits of programmed instruction. Encyclopedias at home would not be needed, for if a child needed research materials he might be able to call for information to a central source for standard reference materials. A printout device, a TV receiver, or microfilm would give him his information." Ianni speculates that the school as most people know it today may not even exist in the future. "Instead, we could have educational parks that would have a total program from preschool through adult education. A park will be based on the same idea as a supermarket, with all educational resources in one place. There will be mobile classrooms, movable walls, television. All computer needs would be served by one central bank of computers."

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