While critics of multiple-choice tests have tended to focus on the tests' influence on the school curriculum, their secrecy may "possibly be a larger and more destructive feature of these tests," a report prepared for the Ford Foundation concludes.
The report by the Educational Technology Center at Harvard University's graduate school of education notes that test makers generally keep questions secret so that they can use them in subsequent years.
But, it says, such secrecy denies everyone "the opportunity to ensure that the goals defined by the assessment instrument match their own."
In a concluding chapter, Judah L. Schwartz, professor of education at Harvard, recommends that a large, publicly available data base of "reviewed and signed problems in a wide variety of school subject areas'' be developed, and that schools use these data bases as the source of questions and problems in their assessment programs.
Copies of the report, "The Prices of Secrecy: The Social, Intellectual, and Psychological Costs of Current Assessment Practice," are available for $10 each from the Educational Technology Center, Harvard Graduate School of Education, Cambridge, Mass. 02138.
Contending that teachers generally receive inadequate preparation in student assessment, three major teaching and testing organizations have prepared a set of standards for teacher competence in the area.
The statement by the American Federation of Teachers, the National Council of Measurement in Education, and the National Education Association asserts that "student assessment is an essential part of teaching and that good teaching cannot exist without good student assessment.''
It outlines seven competencies teachers should acquire, including the abilities to select, develop, apply, use, communicate, and evaluate student-assessment information.
The groups recommend that the standards be incorporated into future teacher-training and certification programs.
As part of a campaign to ban standardized testing in the early grades in New York State, a coalition of some 40 education, civil-rights, and community groups have released a guide for parents.
The 26-page pamphlet, "Standardized Tests and Our Children: A Guide to Testing Reform in New York," explains briefly how tests work and are used, as well as the rights of test takers. It also discusses some alternatives to traditional multiple-choice tests.
The guide may be obtained by sending $3 to the New York Campaign in care of the New York Public Interest Research Group, 9 Murray St., New York, N.Y. 10007.--rr