Testing Column

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Despite the growing dominance of testing in schooling, fewer than a third of the states require new teachers to have demonstrated competence in educational measurement, a survey conducted for the National Council for Measurement in Education has found.

However, it found, 44 states require continuing-education credits or college coursework for recertification of teachers, and all would accept training in measurement toward that end.

The survey's authors note that teacher educators cited a lack of pressure from school administrators as the reason they did not require coursework in measurement for pre-service teachers.

The authors argue that instructors in testing practices should restructure their college courses to reflect the fact that few prospective teachers take such classes. "To wrangle over the content of the classic, 15-week, three-hour measurement course, when it is not likely to be taught, uses energies better focused elsewhere," write Rita G. O'Sullivan, an assistant professor of education at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, and Marla K. Chalnick, a child and family specialist, in the Spring 1991 issue of Educational Measurement: Issues and Practice.

Despite questions about pre-employment "integrity" tests, which are administered at many day-care centers and some private schools, "there is no sound basis for prohibiting their development and use," a task force named by the American Psychological Association has concluded.

The panel's report, "Questionnaires Used in the Prediction of Trustworthiness in Pre-Employment Selection Decisions," differs from one prepared by the Congressional Office of Technology Assessment. In a report issued last fall, the o.t.a. concluded that "honesty" tests should be held to higher standards than other selection measures.

The apa task force, while acknowledging that there is little evidence of validity for some of the tests, rejects the notion that they should be judged by different standards. The panel notes that the few studies that have been conducted support the notion that the employment-screening tests accurately predict aspects of personal integrity, dependability, and trustworthiness. It warns employers, however, against setting arbitrary cutoff scores, and urges them to use test results only in combination with other information in hiring.

At the urging of its state secretary of education, Pennsylvania has pulled out of the state-level National Assessment of Educational Progress test for 1992.

The pilot state-level assessment, which will test a sample of 4th graders in mathematics and reading and 8th graders in math, is the second of its kind administered by naep. It is aimed at demonstrating the feasibility of providing state-by-state comparisons of student-achievement data.

Although the Keystone State took part in the first state-level assessment, in 1990, Pennsylvania pulled out of the second cycle because state officials felt time and resources would be "better utilized in addressing the intellectual needs of our children," according to Secretary of Education Donald M. Carroll Jr.

Naep "tells us nothing of how to help children, but instead contributes to the desire to rank schools, school districts, and states in the belief that such an exercise improves education," Mr. Carroll wrote to Christopher T. Cross, the assistant U.S. secretary of education.

As of last week, 41 states and 1 territory had agreed to participate in the assessment, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. In 1990, 37 states, 2 territories, and the District of Columbia took part in the pilot state assessment, which tested 8th graders in math.

Pennsylvania is the only state to drop out of the project, according to n.N.C.E.S. officials.

New York State United Teachers, the nation's largest state teachers' association, has called for a "revolutionary" change in the state's assessment system.

In a report issued at its annual convention last week, the union called for a shift away from multiple-choice tests to the use of performance-based assessments, a new regulatory board to oversee the system, and a review of district testing practices with an eye on cutting back on the number of tests administered.

"Instead of relying on multiple-choice tests, New York State educators need multiple choices--choices in testing that will more effectively measure student learning," the report states.

If the union's recommendations are adopted, it says, they would "change the way students learn and teachers teach."

Firing a new salvo in its campaign against standardized tests, the National Center for Fair & Open Testing, or FairTest, has produced a pamphlet for parents and policymakers.

The 32-page guide, a national version of a publication previously issued in New York State, is available in both English and Spanish. It features information on how standardized tests are used, "what's wrong with standardized tests," and "better ways to evaluate students."

Single copies of the pamphlet, "Standardized Tests and Our Children: A Guide to Testing Reform," are available for $3 each, postpaid, from FairTest, 342 Broadway, Cambridge, Mass. 02139.--rr

Vol. 10, Issue 27

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