Tech Group Critical of Proposed NAEP Standards

By Sean Cavanagh — September 14, 2009 2 min read
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An organization of state officials has sharply criticized recently proposed standards to test students across the country in technological literacy, saying that without changes to the current draft, the document will “cause confusion across the nation” and ultimately “not have a positive impact on students and education.”

The State Educational Technology Directors Association, or SETDA, warns that the proposed tech-lit framework for the National Assessment of Educational Progress defines skills in that area in a much different way than what is currently being used in the states. States are required to report on their definitions of tech literacy, SETDA officials say, as part of the No Child Left Behind Act, Title II, Part D, and in the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act. The mismatch could lead to “detrimental effects for policy, funding, and educational outcomes,” according to SETDA’s board of directors, in a letter to the governing board.

The National Assessment Governing Board, for those who don’t know, is an independent panel that sets policy for the NAEP test. It released a draft of the tech-lit framework (basically, a blueprint for writing the exam) earlier this summer. It’s not unusual for the board to receive feedback—sometimes strongly worded feedback—on draft frameworks, a testament to NAEP’s influence over testing and curriculum around the country.

All states have already created their own definitions of tech-literacy, the letter says. Their primary sources have been definitions established by SETDA and the International Society for Technology in Education, according to the letter. The proposed NAEP framework breaks tech literacy into three, interconnected areas: design and systems; information and communication technology; and technology and society. That three-part definition, SETDA says, does not mesh what the states have established, which have been in place for at least seven years.

If the three proposed areas of NAEP tech literacy are reported to the public as one test score, those results “will not have any relevance to the states’ adopted definitions of technological literacy or reported results,” which will “cause confusion across states and by federal policy-makers,” the authors of the letter assert.

SETDA asks the governing board to consider two-part solution: Divide the NAEP tech-literacy assessment into the three sections being proposed and report them separately, rather than as a composite score. That way, they won’t “conflict with federal laws or state and national efforts.” The letter-writers also want the test to be given a name that clearly spells out what the NAEP is testing in tech-lit, like “technology and engineering” or “technology and innovation.”

Defining tech literacy is tough to do. My former colleague Andrew Trotter laid out many of the longstanding debates over tech terminology, and turf, in a story earlier this year. What do you make of SETDA’s concerns, and of the proposed NAEP framework overall?

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Curriculum Matters blog.