Opinion
Education Letter to the Editor

Normed Testing: Fair Means for Comparing Skills

February 07, 2011 1 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

To the Editor:

What happened to norm-referenced testing? I worked as a writer, editor, subtest developer, and trainer for a major testing company for more than eight years. When I began, most nationwide testing was done with nationally normed tests.

These tests took years to develop, as they had trials all across the country and in a variety of schools and neighborhoods. Results were statistically analyzed, and test items were used only if they showed no gender or demographic bias. “Average” meant that those students were mastering skills shared by their peers across the country. If a majority of the children in a school were not mastering such skills, there was a problem.

As state assessments got under way in response to the No Child Left Behind Act, I noticed that the money began quickly shifting from the states and districts to the testing companies as states “created” their own standards, curricula, and assessments. My job was to interpret the standards from individual states to determine what they wanted to test. I observed that states were using basically the same standards, objectives, and subskills, just wording them a bit differently. There are only so many ways to slice and dice a domain. Sometimes the committees were most concerned that the wording of a question reflected their teachers’ syntax. Understanding other ways to address the same skill might add undo challenge to the item.

Granted, analysis and higher-order thinking skills are difficult to teach and test. Assuming that students are going to learn different material in different ways across the nation seems counterproductive in a nation that needs a mobile and flexible workforce and a common knowledge from which to take on future possibilities. Normed testing is a fair way to compare.

By the way, a level playing field would also mean funding schools equally (adjusted for cost of living) across the United States.

Susan Bassett

Tucson, Ariz.

A version of this article appeared in the February 09, 2011 edition of Education Week as Normed Testing: Fair Means for Comparing Skills

Events

Special Education Live Online Discussion A Seat at the Table - Special Education: Proven Interventions for Academic Success
Special education should be a launchpad, not a label. Join the conversation on how schools can better support ALL students.
Special Education K-12 Essentials Forum Innovative Approaches to Special Education
Join this free virtual event to explore innovations in the evolving landscape of special education.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Curriculum Webinar
STEM Fusion: Empowering K-12 Education through Interdisciplinary Integration
Join our webinar to learn how integrating STEM with other subjects can revolutionize K-12 education & prepare students for the future.
Content provided by Project Lead The Way

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Education Briefly Stated: May 29, 2024
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
9 min read
Education Briefly Stated: May 8, 2024
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
8 min read
Education Briefly Stated: April 17, 2024
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
8 min read
Education Briefly Stated: March 20, 2024
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
8 min read