Agreeing To Disagree: Researchers Seeking To Broaden Policy Debate

April 05, 1989 3 min read

San Francisco--Urging that the American Educational Research Association break out of the “ivory-tower syndrome,” a small group of researchers has formed a separate organization within the association to promote more intensive debate on a broad range of educational policy issues.

The new special-interest group, to be called “Debates in Education,’' joins nearly 100 others within the aera It plans to publish a bimonthly newsletter and sponsor sessions at the association’s annual meeting.

“We are frustrated by the narrowness of the issues confronted by the aera’s literature and symposia,” said the group’s founder, Edward A. Wynne, professor of education at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

These formats, he said, tend to allow a researcher to present his or her research findings without being challenged.

“Many things education researchers are engaged in are highly controversial,” Mr. Wynne said. “There are never clear juxtapositions of positions that are often in clear disagreement.”

Moreover, added Robert Serow, professor of education at North Carolina State University, the research tends to follow the “conventional wisdom,” which usually adheres to the liberal side of the political spectrum. For example, he said, researchers have seldom questioned their assumption that pupils’ religious beliefs are harmful to their academic achievement.

In addition, said Mr. Wynne, researchers within the association tend to ignore many issues that are highly relevant to the8public and to policymakers, such as school discipline and the dispute that surfaced during the 1988 Presidential campaign over the Pledge of Allegiance.

Such “intellectual insensitivity,” he warned, threatens to place education researchers at risk of losing their relevance to many of the ''significant intellectual and political issues of our time.”

The new group’s publications and symposia, he said, will foster “genuine debates about any issue any member chooses to raise.”

In an effort to ensure that teachers are well grounded in the use of student-assessment tools, four leading educational associations have developed standards for teacher competence in the field.

The draft standards, releasedel10lhere last week for review by teachers, teacher educators, and measurement experts, are expected to serve as guidelines for teacher preparation and certification. They outline the knowledge and skills that the groups say teachers must have to be effective in administering and evaluating assessments.

“Assessment is part of the instructional practice,” said Anthony J. Nitko, professor of education at the University of Pittsburgh and a member of the panel that drafted the document. “Teachers must be competent in that.”

The standards state that teachers must be skilled in choosing appropriate assessment methods, in developing valid grading systems that use pupil assessments, and in administering, scoring, and interpreting the results of both commercially produced and teacher-prepared assessment methods.

In addition, the document states, teachers should know how to use assessment results in making decisions about individual students, curricula, and school improvement, and be able to communicate the results to parents and the lay public. They should also, it says, be able to recognize unethical or inappropriate assessment practices.

The groups that wrote the draft include the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education, the American Federation of Teachers, the National Council on Measurement in Education, and the National Education Association.

Requests for copies of the draft statement and comments on it should be directed to: James R. Sanders, The Evaluation Center, Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo, Mich. 49008.--rr

A version of this article appeared in the April 05, 1989 edition of Education Week as Agreeing To Disagree: Researchers Seeking To Broaden Policy Debate