Coalition Issues Guide To Help Evaluate Student-Test Systems

By Robert Rothman — June 12, 1991 2 min read

Washington--Maintaining that fundamental changes in assessments are an essential ingredient in school reform, a coalition of 37 education and civil-rights organizations last week issued guidelines to help evaluate student-assessment systems.

“When put in place, as we hope they are, these guidelines will significantly improve the way children are assessed,” D. Monty Neill, associate director of the National Center for Fair & Open Testing and an organizer of the coalition, said at a press conference here.

The guidelines state that assessments should be based on a consensus definition of what students should learn, and that the tests’ exercises should be “valid and appropriate representations” of such standards.

In addition, they emphasize that the purpose of assessments should be to improve instruction, and state that, if they “cannot be shown to be beneficial, they should not be used at all.”

The two-page statement also states that tests should be fair to all students; that the results should be reported clearly and in the context of “other relevant information"; that teachers should be involved in designing and using the assessment systems; and that the system should be subject to continuous re4view and improvement.

‘An Essential Component’

Although the statement does not specifically address current proposals for national tests, organizers of the coalition said the guidelines should apply to those plans.

The guidelines apply to “everything from the Scholastic Aptitude Test to the pop quiz on Friday,” said Ruth Mitchell, associate director of the Council for Basic Education. “We think all assessments should have these qualities.”

Ms. Mitchell added that no existing assessment program meets all the criteria, but that several are “models for some of the criteria.”

As examples, she cited California’s writing assessment and Vermont’s forthcoming writing and mathematics assessment, both of which involve teachers in the design and scoring.

Edward D. Roeber, director of a consortium of states involved in developing alternative forms of assessment, said the statement would be useful in guiding states as they improve their programs, as well as in helping to develop a national assessment system.

But Ms. Mitchell emphasized that improving assessment is only one part of school improvement.

“It is an essential component in a new vision of education,” she said. “But we would never claim this would do it all.”

A version of this article appeared in the June 12, 1991 edition of Education Week as Coalition Issues Guide To Help Evaluate Student-Test Systems