Good for the Goose
Three education professors in Washington state have come up with a proposed ballot initiative that would require candidates running for local or state office to take the state's 10th grade test and post their scores on the secretary of state's Web site and in voters' pamphlets.
"Part of it is the Golden Rule," explained Bob Howard, an assistant professor of education at the University of Washington in Tacoma. "In creating social policy, it seems to be a good idea to create policies that you could live with if they applied to you."
If the test content is "truly essential," he added, "then it seems to me that we should take it seriously and apply it to people other than students."
The professors hope to bring attention to what they view as the inappropriate, high-stakes nature of the exam. Students in the class of 2008 will have to pass the test to graduate.
The educators need to gather 200,000 signatures for the proposal to appear on the November ballot.
A move to online tests to measure learning is inevitable, argue two new papers, but they caution that the transition won't be easy.
In "Using Electronic Assessment to Measure Student Performance," an issue brief from the National Governors Association, researcher Randy E. Bennett of the Educational Testing Service notes that at least six states are moving assessments to Web delivery. But he cites a number of challenges: cost, dependability, security, and assurance that students are tested under the same conditions.
Among other actions, he suggests that states establish cooperative arrangements to help bring costs down, and that they think creatively, going beyond administering conventional tests by computer.
Similarly, in "Computer-Based Assessment: Can It Deliver on Its Promise?" Stanley Rabinowitz and Tamara Brandt of WestEd, a federally financed research laboratory, argue that computer-based testing has the potential of "radically improving" assessments and the quality of information they offer.
Some of the barriers they identify are: the lack of backup procedures when the technology fails and underestimating the training needs of teachers. "Moving ahead without addressing the questions raised in this brief will almost certainly result in flawed, unfair, invalid (and most likely, illegal) assessment systems," they caution.
—Lynn Olson firstname.lastname@example.org
Vol. 21, Issue 23, Page 11