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Compromise reached on testing

The White House and congressional leaders Wednesday broke a prolonged deadlock over President Clinton's proposal for national school testing and appeared close to deals on a handful of other remaining issues.

The moved raised prospects that Congress will adjourn this weekend for the remainder of the year.

Disputes over school testing, the use of statistical sampling in conducting the 2000 Census, abortion funding for international planning programs and a Republican plan to grant school vouchers to District of Columbia parents have derailed final action on four remaining spending bills for the fiscal year that began Oct. 1. For the most part, the emerging deals involve interim measures that put off sharper confrontations until next year or beyond.

The compromises reflect Congress' eagerness to finish for the year and the White House's need to ensure staunch GOP support for its effort to win a crucial trade vote Friday.

Prospects for adjournment abruptly gathered steam Wednesday, after Clinton and Rep. William F. Goodling, R-Pa., chairman of the House Education and the Workforce Committee, reached a tentative compromise at the White House over school testing _ one that would enable both sides to claim a partial victory.

Goodling said both sides were very close to finalizing details. Under the latest plan, Republicans would allow the administration to keep developing a national test _ they had wanted all work on it stopped _ but won concessions on when and how such a test could be administered.

Clinton wanted the tests to begin in 1999. That may not happen until 2000, and it may not be the kind of test the president has envisioned.

That core issue now will not be resolved apparently until the National Academy of Sciences, a non-partisan group, studies whether the tests that many states use to judge student performance can be linked into a rough national standard. The study must be completed by June.