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March 17, 2004 1 min read

Branching Out

Harcourt Assessment, one of the nation’s largest test publishers, has set up a research advisory board to help guide its in-house studies on key topics in assessment, with the goal of launching an ongoing series of reports that would begin appearing at the end of this year on the company’s Web site.

John Olson, who joined the San Antonio-based testing company as its vice president for psychometrics and research services last fall, said that in addition to helping set Harcourt’s research agenda, the five-member board would review internal proposals and research papers.

The formation of the board reflects the goal of Harcourt’s president, Jeff Galt, to do more high- profile work in the area of psychometrics, or the science of measuring mental functions such as learning.

In particular, said Mr. Olson, the former director of assessment for the Council of Chief State School Officers, the company hopes to focus on applied research on such topics as computer-based assessment and the testing of special populations, such as students with disabilities.

Drawing upon the advice of the board, along with Harcourt’s own experts, he asserted, will “ensure that we remain at the vanguard of the testing industry.”

“We’re trying not to be project-specific or state- specific, but to look across the board,” Mr. Olson said.

The company, which is probably best known for its Stanford Achievement Tests, is working with more than 20 states to help them meet the accountability requirements of the federal No Child Left Behind Act.

Members of the Harcourt Research Advisory Board are: Richard P. Duran, a professor of education at the University of California, Santa Barbara, who is an expert on testing English- language learners; Ronald K. Hambleton, a professor of education at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, who specializes in large-scale assessment and psychometrics; Robert L. Linn, a professor of education at the University of Colorado at Boulder, who is widely known for his work on testing and accountability issues; Martha L. Thurlow, the director of the National Center on Educational Outcomes at the University of Minnesota, who is an expert on testing students with disabilities; and Mark R. Wilson, a professor of education at the University of California, Berkeley, who is also well-known for his work on psychometrics.

—Lynn Olson