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Chapter 11

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University of Toronto St. George
David Goldstein

Chapter 11: Achievement Tests Introduction 1. In terms of the sheer quantity of testing, achievement tests swamp all other types of tests combined. The Ability-Achievement Continuum 2. The ability-achievement continuum represents the extent to which specific training influences test performance. 3. At the extreme right of the continuum are tests that are highly dependent on specific training. 4. At the extreme left, are abilities thought to be highly generalized. These latter abilities certainly develop as the result of some experiences, but not highly specific ones. 5. Some abilities like arithmetic problems and reading comprehension fall in the middle of the continuum. The Psychologist's Interface with Achievement Tests 6. Mental ability tests are stock in trade of psychologists and achievement tests are traditionally identified more with education than psychology. 7. However psychologists interface with the world of achievement testing in a number of ways. 8. (1) because of their special training in psychometrics, psychologists frequently play an important role in the development of achievement tests. 9. (2) Several subfields of psychology have their principal applications in school settings 10. Because of their special training in testing methodology and interpretation, school psychologists and counselors often serve on test committees that select achievement tests, make reports of school district results to school boards, etc. 11. (3) Many psychologists with no direct involvement in schools will frequently receive reports of achievement test results. 12. (4) Achievement tests play a role in research in many fields of psychology. 13. Psychologists need to be familiar with the development of achievement tests, their typical structure and the types of scores reported for them. A Broad Classification of Achievement Tests 14. Achievement tests are classified into 6 categories. 15. (1) includes achievement batteries widely used in elementary and secondary school testing programs. 16. (2) includes single-area achievement tests used primarily in secondary and postsecondary educational programs and in job-related contexts. 17. (3) includes achievement tests custom-made for state, national and international testing programs 18. (4) includes the numerous certification and licensing exams used by professional organizations 19. (5) includes individually administered achievement tests, ordinarily used in conjunction with mental ability tests, in diagnosing student problems; these are sometimes called psychoeducational batteries. 20. (6) We do not treat the large category of teacher-made tests, either those prepared by classroom teachers or those used for training programs in industry and the military. A Typical School Testing Program 21. Some of the tests include in a school testing program include: (1) achievement battery, (2) group ability test, (3) state testing program, (4) vocational interest inventory, (5) college admissions tests, (6) Other Tests-selected cases. The Accountability Movement and Standards-Based Education 22. The accountability movement and standard based education movement have had profound influences on how achievement tests are developed, used and interpreted. 23. Accountability refers to the fact that schools are responsible for their product (student learning) which can be indicated by achievement tests. 24. Three events form the foundation of the accountability movement: (1) Sputnik: Russia's inaugural orbital space flight (2) a dramatic increase in the funding of education, (3) The U.S. Congress passed the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) providing federal funding on a greatly expanded scale for a wide variety of educational efforts. 25. The accountability movement has evolved into standards based education. This approach calls for clear identification of content for students to learn, specification of required levels of performance and assurance that students have the opportunity to learn the material. 26. Achievement tests are used to determine whether the standards have been met. 27. High-stakes tests: ones in which the outcome has very substantial, immediate consequences for an individual. These can also be high stakes for the person giving the exam. Achievement Batteries 28. A battery means a coordinated series of tests covering different content areas and multiple grade levels. 29. There are five major achievement test batteries in use in the US. Stanford Achievement Test 30. We illustrate the standardized achievement batteries with the SAT10 31. SAT10 is a vast system of measure rather than a single test. 32. Typical features of major achievement batteries: (1) different levels of the test designed for different grades (2) each level contains a host of specific tests (it is this feature that gives rise to the term battery) (3) the specific subtests come and go at different levels (4) there is a large degree of continuity flowing through the series (some measures occur at all levels) (5) All levels have Basic Battery and Complete Battery scores (6) a typical subtest contains about 40 items and requires about 25 minutes administration time. Subtests are aggregated into area totals that typically have 75 items to 100 items. 33, SAT10 has a Complete Battery and an Abbreviated Battery which has few subtests and these are generally shorter. There is also a writing test. 34. SAT10 offers almost every type of derived score covered in chp 3. 35. SAT10 includes many students in the tryout, standardization and equating programs. 36. When the number of items is above 60, internal consistency reliability tends to be around .95. When the number of items drops to under 10, as is the case for cluster scores given in some reports, reliabilities are generally very low. Typical Uses and Special Features 37. The original intent for these tests was to monitor the progress of individual students in the major areas of school curriculum, with the teacher being the primary recipient of the test information. 38. Other uses: School buildings and school districts now use summaries of test score for groups of students to evaluate the curriculum. 39. Scores from achievement batteries are now routinely reported to parents, group summaries are reported to school boards and local committees as measures of school effectiveness and achievement batteries are employed in many research projects as dependant variables. 40. Common features: (1) Although one of these batteries may be referred to as "a" test each is actually a system of many interrelated tests (2) quite apart from the number of identifiably separate tests, the array of supplementary materials and scoring reports for these batteries is staggering (3) the norming procedures and other research programs for these achievement batteries are exemplary (4) All the major achievement batteries now employ methods of assessment in addition to multiple-choice items (5) all the achievement batteries depend heavily on the same sources of information for their content. Achievement Batteries at the College Level 41. These batteries concentrate on general education outcomes of a college degree program, including such areas as development of writing skill, computer and information literacy, and acquiring at least some exposure to the humanities, natural sciences and social sciences. Single Area Achievement Tests 42. There are a wide variety of achievement tests that cover a single content domain and there tests are generally designed for use in high school or college, often at the end of a course or an entire program of study (a college major or vocation training program) Examples 43. The first example is the Major Field Test in Psychology (MFT-P) which is one of a series of tests designed to measure student learning in the major field of study. 44. Originally designed to be shorter and less difficult versions of the corresponding GRE Subject tests. 45. The tests can be taken online (not computer-adaptive) or in paper and pencil format. 46. The MFT-P consists of 140 MC items administered in two sittings. For each examinee, the test yields a total score and four subscores. 47. Norms are derived from whatever schools have used the test in the most recent three year period. There are user norms rather than nationally representative norms. The 2000 norms are based on 8200 seniors and 210 institutions. 48. Tests developed by the National Occupational Competency Testing Institute (NOCTI) provide a plethora of additional examples of single-area achievement tests. 49. NOCTI have over 150 tests of occupational competency for entry level and experienced workers. 50. A typical NOCTI test has about 180 MC items and a three hour administration time. 51. Each test has user norms based on all examinees who took the test in the recent past. 52. Another example of a single-area achievement test is the STAR Math test. This is a computer adaptive test for use in grades 1-12. 53. There is a pool of 2
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