Assessment in Higher Education: Issues of Access, Quality, Student Development, and Public Policy

By Samuel J. Messick | Go to book overview

PART III
EXPANDING ADMISSIONS TESTING

In this last decade of the 20th century, a number of powerful forces are operating that portend radical change in the content and form of admissions testing. Some of these forces--such as the standards-based education reform movement and its paladin or principal instrument, performance assessment--are aimed at transforming the nature of elementary and secondary education. If what students know and can do, as well as the ways in which they express and display their knowledge and skill, become enhanced in this reform movement, then admissions testing will need to be similarly enhanced to provide domainappropriate and equitable means for students to demonstrate their competence.

Other forces are aimed at transforming the nature of educational and psychological measurement by means of dramatic improvements in computer and audiovisual technology, in psychometric inferential models and construct validation, and in understanding and modeling the psychological processes underlying task performance. Each of these five forces emanating from work on standards, performance assessment, computer technology, psychometric modeling, and the psychology of cognitive and conative processes has strong implications for a new era in admissions testing. But even more striking, the confluence of these five forces at roughly the same point in time affords synergies that are likely to be more multiplicative than additive in their import for the admissions process. The ramifications of these separate forces and the power of their synergies for transforming admissions testing in the near future are the core issues examined in Part III.

In Chapter 7, Robert Linn reviews the conceptual foundation and current status of the standards-based education reform movement in the United States, with special emphasis on three essential components. These critical elements are content standards (i.e., what teachers should teach and students should learn in each subject area), performance standards (i.e., the achievement levels considered acceptable or outstanding for each content standard), and performance assessments (i.e., the systematic means of judging whether or not students have met the performance standards). Because content standards are being set not just at the level of specific knowledge and skill but primarily at the level of complex processes such as problem solving and the construction of knowledge,

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