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NOTICE: The project that is the subject of this report was approved by the Governing Board of the National Research Council, whose members are drawn from the councils of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, and the Institute of Medicine. The co-principal investigators responsible for the report were chosen for their special competence.
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The study was supported by Contract/Grant No. RJ97184001 between the National Academy of Sciences and the U.S. Department of Education. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the organizations or agencies that provided support for this project.
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Project on the Evaluation of the Voluntary National Tests
ROBERT M. HAUSER,
University of Wisconsin, Madison
LAURESS L. WISE,
Human Resources Research Organization, Alexandria, Virginia
Staff, Board on Testing and Assessment
MICHAEL J. FEUER, Director
KAREN J. MITCHELL, Senior Program Officer
STEPHEN E. BALDWIN, Senior Program Officer
MARILYN DABADY, Research Associate
VIOLA C. HOREK, Administrative Associate
DOROTHY R. MAJEWSKI, Senior Project Assistant
Board on Testing and Assessment
ROBERT L. LINN (Chair),
School of Education, University of Colorado, Boulder
CARL F. KAESTLE (Vice Chair),
Department of Education, Brown University
RICHARD C. ATKINSON, President,
University of California
The Superior Court of the District of Columbia
PAUL J. BLACK,
School of Education, King's College, London, England
RICHARD P. DURÁN,
Graduate School of Education, University of California, Santa Barbara
CHRISTOPHER F. EDLEY, JR.,
Harvard Law School
PAUL W. HOLLAND,
Graduate School of Education, University of California, Berkeley
MICHAEL W. KIRST,
School of Education, Stanford University
ALAN M. LESGOLD,
Learning Research and Development Center, University of Pittsburgh
Departments of Political Science and Education, University of California, Santa Barbara
Lucent Technologies, Inc., Warren, New Jersey
PAUL R. SACKETT,
Department of Psychology, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis
RICHARD J. SHAVELSON,
School of Education, Stanford University
CATHERINE E. SNOW,
Graduate School of Education, Harvard University
WILLIAM L. TAYLOR, Attorney at Law,
WILLIAM T. TRENT, Associate Chancellor,
University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
Xerox Palo Alto Research Center, Palo Alto, California
KENNETH I. WOLPIN,
Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia
MICHAEL J. FEUER, Director
VIOLA C. HOREK, Administrative Associate
President Clinton's 1997 proposal to create voluntary national tests in reading and mathematics catapulted testing to the top of the national education agenda. The proposal turned up the volume on what had already been a contentious debate and drew intense scrutiny from a wide range of educators, parents, policy makers, and social scientists. Recognizing the important role science could play in sorting through the passionate and often heated exchanges in the testing debate, Congress and the Clinton administration asked the National Research Council, through its Board on Testing and Assessment (BOTA), to conduct three fast-track studies over a 10-month period.
This report and its companions—Uncommon Measures: Equivalence and Linkage Among Educational Tests and High-Stakes: Testing for Tracking, Promotion, and Graduation—are the result of truly heroic efforts on the part of the BOTA members, the study committee chairs and members, two co-principal investigators, consultants, and staff, who all understood the urgency of the mission and rose to the challenge of a unique and daunting timeline. Michael Feuer, BOTA director, deserves the special thanks of the Board for keeping the effort on track and shepherding the report through the review process. His dedicated effort, long hours, sage advice, and good humor were essential to the success of this effort. Robert Hauser and Lauress Wise deserve our deepest appreciation for their outstanding commitment of time, energy, and intellectual firepower that made this evaluation possible.
These reports are exemplars of the Research Council's commitment to scientific rigor in the public interest: they provide clear and compelling statements of the underlying issues, cogent answers to nettling questions, and highly readable findings and recommendations. These reports will help illuminate the toughest issues in the ongoing debate over the proposed Voluntary National Tests. But they will do much more as well. The issues addressed in this and the other two reports go well beyond the immediate national testing proposal: they have much to contribute to knowledge about the way tests—all tests—are planned, designed, implemented, reported, and used for a variety of education policy goals.
I know the whole board joins me in expressing our deepest gratitude to the many people who worked so hard on this project. These reports will advance the debate over the role of testing in American education, and I am honored to have participated in this effort.
ROBERT L. LINN, CHAIR
BOARD ON TESTING AND ASSESSMENT
This project would not have been possible without the generosity of many individuals and the contributions of several institutions.
The sage counsel of Bob Linn and Carl Kaestle, chair and vice chair of the Board on Testing and Assessment (BOTA), helped us frame the evaluation and test our findings and conclusions. Other BOTA members contributed in important ways by participating in briefings and making invaluable suggestions for improved analysis and discussion.
The Office of Planning and Evaluation Services, U.S. Department of Education, administered the contract for this evaluation. Director Allen Ginsburg provided assistance in planning the evaluation, and Audrey Pendleton served as an exemplary contracting officer's technical representative during this first phase of the evaluation. We thank them for their guidance and support.
Staff from the National Assessment Governing Board (NAGB), under the leadership of Roy Truby, executive director, and the NAGB prime contractor, the American Institutes for Research (AIR), with Archie LaPointe's guidance, were a valuable source of information and data on the design and development of the Voluntary National Tests (VNT). Sharif Shakrani, Raymond Fields, and Mary Crovo of NAGB and Mark Kutner, Steven Ferrara, John Olsen, Clayton Best, Roger Levine, Terry Salinger, Fran Stancavage, and Christine Paulson of AIR provided us with important information on occasions that are too numerous to mention. We benefited tremendously by attending and learning from discussions at meetings of the National Assessment Governing Board and meetings of its contractors; we thank them for opening their meetings to us and for sharing their knowledge and perspectives. We extend thanks to the staff of the cognitive laboratories and of Harcourt Brace Educational Measurement and Riverside Publishing for access to important information and their perspectives throughout the course of our work.
We relied heavily on the input and advice of a cadre of testing and disciplinary experts, who provided helpful and insightful presentations at our workshops: they are listed in Appendices A–C, and we thank them. Our work was enriched by the stimulating intellectual exchange at the meetings to which they contributed greatly.
William Morrill, Rebecca Adamson, and Donald Wise of Mathtech, Inc., provided important help and perspective throughout. They attended and reported on workshops, cognitive laboratories, and bias review sessions, provided important insight into VNT development, and were valuable members of the evaluation team.
This report has been reviewed by individuals chosen for their diverse perspectives and technical expertise, in accordance with procedures approved by the Report Review Committee of the National Research Council (NRC). The purpose of this independent review is to provide candid and critical comments that will assist the authors and the NRC in making the published report as sound as possible and to ensure that the report meets institutional standards for objectivity, evidence, and responsiveness to the study charge. The content of the review comments and draft manuscript remain confidential to protect the integrity of the deliberative process.
We wish to thank the following individuals, who are neither officials nor employees of the NRC, for their participation in the review of this report: Arthur S. Goldberger, Department of Economics, University of Wisconsin; Lyle V. Jones, L.L. Thurstone Psychometric Laboratory, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill; Michael J. Kolen, Iowa Testing Programs, University of Iowa; Henry W. Riecken, Professor of Behavioral Sciences (emeritus), University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine; Alan H. Schoenfeld, School of Education, University of California, Berkeley; Richard Shavelson, School of Education, Stanford University; Ross M. Stolzenberg, Department of Sociology, University of Chicago. Although these individuals provided many constructive comments and suggestions, responsibility for the final content of this report rests solely with the authors and the NRC.
Above all, we are grateful to the many individuals at the National Research Council who provided guidance and assistance at many stages of the evaluation and during the preparation of the report. Barbara Torrey, executive director of the Commission on Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education (CBASSE), helped and encouraged our work—and the companion VNT studies—throughout. Sandy Wigdor, director of CBASSE's Division on Education, Labor, and Human Performance, also has been a source of great encouragement and paved many paths in the conduct of the study. We are indebted, also, to the whole CBASSE staff for indulging our scheduling exigencies. Thanks also to Sally Stanfield and the whole Audubon team at the National Academy Press, for their creative and speedy support.
We are especially grateful to Eugenia Grohman, associate director for reports of CBASSE, for her advice on structuring the content of the report, for her expert editing of the manuscript, for her wise advice on the exposition of the report's main messages, and for her patient and deft guidance of the report through the NRC review process.
We also are immensely grateful to Stephen Baldwin, Patricia Morison, and Naomi Chudowsky of the BOTA staff and Marilyn Dabady, a Yale Ph.D. candidate and BOTA summer intern, who made valuable contributions to our research and report.
We express our gratitude to NRC administrative staff Adrienne Carrington and Lisa Alston. We are especially grateful to Dorothy Majewski and Viola Horek, who capably and admirably managed the operational aspects of the evaluation—arranging meeting and workshop logistics, producing multiple iterations of drafts and report text, and being available to assist with our requests, however large or small.
We recognize the special contributions of Michael Feuer, BOTA director, and Karen Mitchell, senior staff officer, as our coauthors of this report. Michael guided the project, coordinated our work with the companion VNT projects on linkage and appropriate test use, and, most important, made frequent contributions to the discussion and the framing of our questions and conclusions. Karen was a principal source of expertise in both the substance and process of the evaluation, and she provided
cheerful and continuous liaison between the two of us and the staff of NAGB and AIR. Without her help, we could not have completed our work in time and to the NRC's rigorous standards.
Lastly, we thank Winnie and Tess for their patience, help, understanding, and good humor during our work on this project. We'll be home for dinner.
LAURESS WISE AND ROBERT HAUSER, CO-PRINCIPAL INVESTIGATORS
EVALUATION OF THE VOLUNTARY NATIONAL TESTS
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Public Law 105-78, enacted November 13, 1997
SEC. 308. STUDY—The National Academy of Sciences shall, not later than September 1, 1998, submit a written report to the Committee on Education and the Workforce of the House of Representatives, the Committee on Labor and Human Resources of the Senate, and the Committees on Appropriations of the House and Senate that evaluates all test items developed or funded by the Department of Education or any other agency of the Federal Government pursuant to contract RJ97153001, any subsequent contract related thereto, or any contract modification by the National Assessment Governing Board pursuant to section 307 of this Act, for—