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State-mandated exam might get ax

There might be a silver lining in the economic crisis, at least for students tired of taking tests.

State Superintendent Keith Rheault is proposing eliminating a state-mandated exam as a way of cutting $1 million from the state budget.

Students and teachers could be spared from the norm reference test this spring if the state lawmakers repeal its requirement during an upcoming special session of the Legislature. Lawmakers are meeting Monday and Tuesday to cut spending because of declining state revenues.

Rheault said the governor and other state officials were receptive to his proposal. He said the only other option for paring the state education budget was laying off staff, which he did not want to do.

The norm reference test is typically given over three days in March or April to all fourth-, seventh- and 10th-graders. Because it tests students’ knowledge of core subjects such as math, English and social studies, it requires a lot of staffing to administer and evaluate, Rheault said Friday during a meeting of the state Board of Education.

The test has been made redundant by other standardized tests, such as those required under the federal No Child Left Behind Act, Rheault said.

Similar to an Iowa test of basic skills, the test’s purpose is to see how Nevada students compare with peers in other states. It is also a means of judging the effectiveness of state-based tests. Students do not take the test for a letter grade or to measure their academic performance.

Cliff Ferry, a member of the Board of Education, questioned the timing of the proposal since No Child Left Behind could change under a new Congress and presidential administration. Rheault, however, said he expected the test-taking portion of No Child Left Behind to remain in effect until 2011.

In a separate board item, the panel voted 7-1 to delay a vote on whether to appoint board member Barbara Myers to a special education advisory committee until January.

Myers was the only board member to oppose the vote.

Coincidentally, Myers would not be able to vote on her appointment in January since her term on the board ends this month. A representative from Carson City, Myers was defeated for re-election in November by Dave Cook, who took 53 percent of the vote.

Myers is one of five applicants to show interest in the vacancy on the advisory committee.

During Friday’s meeting, the selection process was narrowed to two candidates: Myers, who was nominated by board member John Gwaltney, and Susan Lacey, a former advisory committee member nominated by Ferry.

Myers, who is a speech pathologist, complained that state staffers did not include her credentials and background information in the board members’ information packet.

Frankie McCabe, a state employee who oversees special education in Nevada, said she wanted to avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest.

Because of Myers’ complaint, board members said they would delay the vote until they could get all the information.

Contact reporter James Haug at jhaug @reviewjournal.com or 702-799-2922.

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