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Fwd: In response to Judi's statement to Deanna

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Please post this to the list. I didn't realize that I am not a member of ARN-
listserve (I share an electronic folder with my colleague, Ellen Julian, who
is indeed a member of ARN-listserve).

Thank you.


Judi and others on ARN,

My name is Kristen Huff. Presently I work for a testing organization, and I
plan to start to school next fall in a doctoral program in psychometrics. I
continue to learn a great deal from reading the posts to this list (I have
been lurking since early last fall). I feel it is important for me to
understand not only how teachers, students, and other interested folks feel
about the tests developed by professionals such as myself, but also it is
crucial that I understand the misconceptions about test use and misuse. The
MAIN challenge for me as a test developer is to try to understand how test
scores are used/misused, and to do my best to remedy the situation when it's

I do not mean to speak for Deanna, but I think I know why she so strongly
supports these tests, because I do too. (For the record, like other
professionals, I do NOT support these tests because I earn money by developing
them. Such a statement is analogous to stating that divorce lawyers encourage
people to divorce so that they can stay in business).

First, I think it would be worthwhile to discuss the purpose of assessment in
the classroom. It is difficult, if not impossible, to defend or criticize the
use of test scores (e.g., test score interpretation) if all parties in the
discussion are not on the same wavelength in re: the purpose of the

Second, I think that a great deal of the misconceptions about standardized
tests are due to a lack of understanding about using a sample of items and a
students' responses to those items to make inferences about the student's
knowledge, skill, and/or ability. I am amazed that classroom teachers are
required to assess students everyday ¯ from creating classroom tests to
grading homework assignments to using direct observation and interaction (all
of which are forms of assessment) ¯ yet how many teacher education programs
actually teach prospective teachers about basic measurement and testing
principles? I have been sorely disappointed everytime I ask this question.
Maybe this time will be different.

I have inferred from the posts on this lists that, ideally, assessment of a
student would involve only direct observation of that student on a specific
task (use your imagination in re: "task"). The teacher, let's call her the
assessor, would observe this student and then make an assessment or judgment.
The assessment would then be used, ultimately, to help the teacher better
teach the student. Am I on the right track here folks? If a teacher developed
a methodology to observe each of her students in a manner that was fair (I
know that I would want to make sure that the assessment process I used for
Antonio was as indepth and as valid as the process that I used to assess
Kara's skills on the task; not necessarily so I could compare Antonio's
performance with Kara's, but so I would know that I didn't cheat either
student out of a good assessment). Making sure that each student is assessed
validly and reliably is a form of standardized testing.

Creating short answer or multiple choice tests to administer to classroom
students is, in part, in response to the fact that there is not enough time
available to assessors (teachers) or the folks who use the teachers'
assessments (policy-makers, college admission officers, etc) to do the kind of
assessment described above. What if I were a college admission officer and
each application had only qualitative assessments from a variety of people
instead of a combination of quantitative and qualitative assessments? Think
about the time involved in culling through these applications. I can not give
an acceptance to each and every applicant. I must choose, on whatever
criteria, a subset of students to attend my institution. What if some
assessors are so much better than others that it is not the student herself
who is lacking, but the assessment?

I have brought up a lot of topics in this email. I thank you for reading
carefully, and I thank you in advance for the scholarly, heartfelt exchange in
which I hope we can now engage.

Please refrain from statements such as " only rich white men create
standardized tests and only their children score well on them" and other gross
generalizations. It is these kinds of misconceptions that weaken the bridge of
understanding between the folks on opposite sides of the fence of this issue.

Remember, we're all in the business of EDUCATION.


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