Fragile Evidence: A Critique of Reading Assessment

Fragile Evidence: A Critique of Reading Assessment

Fragile Evidence: A Critique of Reading Assessment

Fragile Evidence: A Critique of Reading Assessment

Excerpt

This study can be used to illustrate a number of more general themes. I have mentioned one . . . the idea of making up people. I claim that enumeration requires categorization, and that defining new classes of people for the purposes of statistics has consequences for the ways in which we conceive of others and think of our own possibilities and potentialities.

--I. Hacking (1990, p. 6)

Like Hacking (1990) study of statistics, Fragile Evidence: A Critique of Reading Assessment is a study of the making up of people--but with a particular emphasis on the making up of readers as a result of reading assessment. Witness, for instance, recent events in the state of California. Millions of dollars went into the production and implementation of a new reading assessment--a new way to categorize someone as a reader. The results of the assessment were deemed, however, by popular press interpretations to be unsatisfactory. As an answer to the seeming plummeting of performance, a panel was commissioned, and a report was produced and circulated throughout the state. New monies were provided to reduce class size. More monies were expended to pay for academic "consultants" who jumped on the professional inservice bandwagon. Even more monies were spent by school districts on the materials produced to try to ensure that the students in their schools were named as readers in the next round of assessments.

How did this state of affairs arise? What gives testing and assessment such authority? Do they merit this authority? Fragile Evidence: A Critique of Reading Assessment is a critical exploration of these questions. Drawing on theorizing in two fields, psychometry and reading, we consider the evidence and values that undergird reading assessment as it is practiced. The approach taken in the book is unusual in that it applies questions of contemporary psychological theorizing about validity to the field of reading and brings together two areas that have often existed in separate spaces in educational writing. Because of this dual focus, the text cuts across educational psychology and reading and may be useful in graduate or senior undergraduate courses in educational assessment in general or in reading assessment in particular.

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