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New Jersey chooses test for grades 5 to 7

Suggestion: Maybe the spokesman could come up with a better descriptor than game plan.

By John Mooney

New Jersey has completed its plans for this spring's new student testing in grades five through seven, while it devises a long-term plan for revamping how the state measures student performance.

Ending months of uncertainty, the state told districts yesterday that it picked Riverside Publishing Co., the Illinois-based developer of a popular NJ PASS commercial test now used in many districts.

The new tests will be given the first week of April, officials said, and allow the state to meet the federal deadline to have reading and math tests in place for grades three to eight by the end of this school year. The state now tests grades three, four, eight and 11.

The annual testing in elementary and middle schools is required under the federal No Child Left Behind Act, and state officials had been scrambling to add the last three grades after acting Education Commissioner Lucille Davy announced last month that she wanted to redesign the state's testing for the years ahead.

But that left this spring's exams in flux, and officials said they chose Riverside without seeking formal contract bids after determining it was the only test that would match the state's curriculum standards and other federal requirements. The one-year contract is for $4.6 million.

"It really couldn't be done through a (request for proposal process), given we needed the test in place by April," Davy said yesterday. "And we needed a test that would stand up to review."

The state's school boards association said it was pleased to have the schedule finally in place.

"Districts now know the game plan for this year and appreciate the commissioner's efforts," said spokesman Frank Belluscio. "It looks like she pushed it as far as she could in terms of when it takes place."

— John Mooney


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