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the broader set of academic skills that the test is intended to measure. The desirability of "teaching to the test" is affected by test design. For example, it is entirely appropriate to prepare students by covering all the objectives of a test that represents the full range of the intended curriculum. We therefore recommend that test users respect the distinction between genuine remedial education and teaching narrowly to the specific content of a test. At the same time, all students should receive sufficient preparation for the specific test so their performance will not be adversely affected by unfamiliarity with its format or by ignorance of appropriate test-taking strategies.
Accurate assessment of students with disabilities and English-language learners presents complex technical and policy challenges, in part because these students are particularly vulnerable to potential negative consequences when high-stakes decisions are based on tests. We recommend that policymakers pursue two key policy objectives in modifying tests and testing procedures in these special populations:
to increase such students' participation in large-scale assessments, in part so that school systems can be held accountable for their educational progress; and
to test each such student in a manner that provides appropriate accommodation for the effect of a disability or of limited English proficiency on the subject matter being tested, while maintaining the validity and comparability of test results among all students.
These objectives are sometimes in tension, and the goals of full participation and valid measurement thus present serious technical and operational challenges to test developers and users.
The purpose of the proposed voluntary national tests (VNT) is to inform students (and their parents and teachers) about their performance in 4th grade reading and 8th grade mathematics relative to the standards of the National Assessment of Educational Progress and to performance in the Third International Mathematics and Science Study. The proposal does not suggest any direct use of VNT scores to make decisions about the tracking, promotion, or graduation of individual students, and thus it is not being developed to support those uses. However, states and school districts would be free to use scores on the voluntary national tests for these purposes. Given their design, the proposed voluntary national tests should not be used for decisions about the tracking, promotion, or