A few years ago, National Evaluation Systems, Inc. (NES) sponsored the book entitled Testing for Teacher Certification. The introduction included a general discussion of teacher certification testing programs, reflecting the assumption that not many readers would be familiar with the topic. In the past two years, as more and more states constructed teacher assessment programs and as the issues related to teacher testing became familiar to a broader audience, we sponsored two more books: The Validity Issue: What Should Teacher Certification Tests Measure? and Bias Issues in Teacher Certification Testing.
In this year's book we turn our attention to a different testing arena: the assessment of basic academic skills in higher education. This topic requires less introduction than teacher certification testing did a few years ago. It has quickly been gaining widespread attention as college faculty and administrators around the country express increased concern about the reading, mathematics, and writing skills of entering freshman-level students.
Many students arrive on our college and university campuses lacking the ability to read and comprehend the material for their courses. Even larger numbers cannot successfully perform fundamental mathematic and algebraic operations. And many are unable to express themselves effectively in writing. In New Jersey, a test of basic skills administered to entering college students since 1978 has consistently produced distressing results about the proficiency levels of those students.
From the perspective of colleges and universities, this degree of underpreparation is a challenging educational fact of life. The notion that every student who comes to college is prepared to do college- level work is simply untenable. Fortunately, state agencies and colleges and universities have generally avoided pointing an accusing finger at other educational institutions and instead have sought an effective solution to the problem. The challenge for many higher