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

CHAPTER
14 THE POLITICS OF MULTIPLE-CHOICE VERSUS FREE-RESPONSE ASSESSMENT

Sharon P. Robinson

National Education Association

In the United States a politician first tries to see what his own interest is and who has analogous interests which can be grouped around his own; he is next concerned to discover whether by chance there may not be somewhere in the worm a doctrine or a principle that could conveniently be placed at the head of the new association to give it the right to put itself forward and circulate freely. It is like the royal imprimatur which our ancestors printed on the first page of their work and incorporated into the book even though it was not a part of it.

( Alexis de Tocqueville quoted in Gifford, 1989, p. 12.)

Numerous observers have noted the unrelenting growth of standardized testing in education and in the broader society ( Corbett & Wilson, 1991; Rothman , 1990; Shepard, 1989). This chapter discusses the political dynamics fueling this growth, particularly with respect to tests characterized by multiple- choice and other "limited-response" items. It is argued that, whereas the need to reform schools is often the reason for policy mandates requiring testing, the intent of education reform will be frustrated by continued reliance upon limited-response tests. Given the needs of an information-based economy, the complexity of a democratic society, and the educational interests of students, this paper proposes that the assessment of school and student performance will be better served when educators, the public, and policymakers institute more appropriate forms of assessment.

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