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End Of Grade Testing Questioned

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RALEIGH — For many North Carolina students, moving up to the next grade hinges on a test score.Ninety-nine thousand 5th graders must pass anend-of-grade test to move on to middle school next year. A third of them failed theend-of-gradetest as 4th graders.

Some people think the high failure rate indicates a problem with the tests, ratherthan with the students. They want the tests to stop.

A group of parents, researchers, school psychologists and lawmakers launched a protestof the state's accountabilityprogram. The Coalition for Fair Testing says the ABC's program and the state's promotionpolicy are anything but fair.

School psychologist Steve Breckheimer says that "decades of research on retentionshows that it does not help kidsacademically."

Minority and poor students are failing at twice the rates of white students. The groupsays that the state is failingthese students.

"Why can't we fully fund remediation programs before we fail students? They can't tell us. Why can't we makeat-risk kids a priority instead of an afterthought? They can't tell us," says ChrisFitzsimmons, director of the CommonSense Foundation.

The Coalition says the state can run a fair and appropriate testing program, but theybelieve the one currently in placeis not adequate.

Three bills are on the way to the Education Oversight Committee. They would requireschools to use more than tests toevaluate student progress, and would provide more money to help failing students.