Construction Versus Choice in Cognitive Measurement: Issues in Constructed Response, Performance Testing, and Portfolio Assessment

By Randy Elliot Bennett; William C. Ward | Go to book overview
Cannell's findings. Even though the study criticized some aspects of Cannell's technical approach, the study confirmed Cannell's primary findings ( Phillips, 1990). ED's study identified five factors that contributed to the Lake Wobegon effect:
1. School districts may choose tests that are best aligned with their curricula, thus giving test users an advantage not shared by students in the norming sample.
2. Students in school districts using the tests may be more motivated to do well than students in the norming sample, for whom the test does not count.
3. School systems may have used the same test repeatedly, thus giving the schools more time to become familiar with the test content and format--an advantage not shared by the norming sample.
4. Higher achieving school districts may not participate in the norming process to the same degree as lower achieving ones. This may make districts that use the test look more adept than they would had they been compared to a sample more representative of the general population.
5. The segment of the school district being tested may differ from the norming sample. For example, the school system may exclude low achieving or limited English proficient students from the tested population while these students were included in the norming sample.

Equally significant is that there is a powerful incentive for school districts to convince taxpayers that the schools are doing a good job. There is no better way than to demonstrate that the schools are "above average" on achievement tests. It is much easier to attract support for bond issues if the taxpayers believe they are getting their money's worth.


CONCLUSION

The nation's drive for improved education is unlikely to end in the near future and testing is seen as a quick and easy way to get information about educational performance. Despite their flaws, standardized test results convey a clear impression of how students and schools are doing. These tests are here to stay.

By any yardstick, student testing expanded sharply in the last few years: 47 states had statewide testing programs in 1990, an increase from 37 five years earlier. Twenty-three states have gone beyond test scores and adopted an integrated set of indicators designed to enhance educational "accountability."

-307-

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