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Education Chief Disappointed as Grades 'Stall'

February 25, 1988|Associated Press

WASHINGTON — Secretary of Education William J. Bennett said today that college entrance test scores "are in a dead stall" and the public is still not getting its money's worth from the schools.

"In saying that I am disappointed, I think I speak for the American people," said Bennett in his annual report card on the states.

Bennett delivered his verdict at a news conference where he released two wall charts nearly six feet wide crammed with statistics ranking the states on test scores, dropout rates, how much they pay teachers and other measures.

Bennett said the school reform movement is alive and yielding positive results in some states, but "there is still too much resistance to sensible and needed reform," including accountability measures and merit pay.

Entrance Scores Stall

Bennett lamented that college entrance test scores, which were made public last fall, "are in a dead stall. The 1987 scores are basically unchanged from last year. The ACT (American College Testing Program) average dipped by 0.1 point to 18.7, and the SAT (Scholastic Aptitude Test) scores remained the same--906." The ACT is graded on a scale of 1-36 and the SAT on a scale of 400-1,600.

Bennett said the graduation rate from public high schools slipped from 71.7% in 1985 to 71.5% in 1986. (California ranked 41st among the states with a graduation rate of 66.7%, the Education Department said.)

"All of this is not particularly good news," said Bennett, who recently began his fourth year as secretary of education. But he did find some encouraging signs.

"Last year a greater proportion of students took the ACT and SAT tests and the Advanced Placement exams than ever before," he said. That "means we are succeeding in keeping scores level despite a larger pool of test-takers."

Test results "show that poor, black and Hispanic children are performing better," said Bennett, although there is still a wide gap between minority and majority scores on the college entrance tests.

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