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University Awarded Grant To Study Possible Regulation of Tests

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In a step that could lead to stronger regulation of the testing industry, Boston College's center for the study of testing, evaluation, and educational policy has begun a two-year study to determine whether an independent body should monitor the industry's practices and products.

The study, funded by a $197,000 grant from the Carnegie Corporation of New York, will examine existing governmental, independent, and industry-based regulatory bodies to see if those models are appropriate for the testing field, according to George F. Madaus, the center's director.

Mr. Madaus said that his "own bias" is against government regula4tion, but that he did not want to prejudice the study in any way.

The study will examine the history and operations of such federal regulatory agencies as the Food and Drug Administration, as well as those of independent bodies such as Consumers' Union and industry-run watchdog groups such as the Underwriters Laboratory.

The major producers of achievement and college-admission tests recently took a step toward self-regulation by adopting a code of fair testing practices in education. The code is aimed at enunciating to educators and the public the standards to which the industry intends to adhere. (See Education Week, Nov. 16, 1988.)

Such standards are exemplary,8Mr. Madaus said, and the code represents the industry's first attempt to recognize "that there are consumer issues that have to be addressed."

But it is insufficient, he added, to ensure that tests are fair to users.

"There is no enforcement mechanism, and there are very general statements," said Mr. Madaus, who helped develop the code as a co-chairman of the joint committee on testing practices. "There is no body to interpret whether things are in the code or not."

After completing the two-year study, the center plans to try out a proposed regulatory model using selected tests, he said. If the pilot regulation proves effective, the center will set up a regulatory body.--rr

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