To produce a bell curve each time, test questions are carefully designed to accentuate performance differences among test takers—not to determine if students have achieved specified learning standards, learned required material, or acquired specific skills. Unlike norm-referenced tests, criterion-referenced tests measure performance against a fixed set of criteria.
Individual teachers may design the tests for use in a specific course, or they may be created by teams of experts for large companies that have contracts with state departments of education. Criterion-referenced tests may be high-stakes tests —i. When testing companies develop criterion-referenced standardized tests for large-scale use, they usually have committees of experts determine the testing criteria and passing scores, or the number of questions students will need to answer correctly to pass the test. Scores on these tests are typically expressed as a percentage.
For example, one group might determine that a minimum passing score is 70 percent correct answers, while another group might establish the cut-off score at 75 percent correct. For a related discussion, see proficiency. Criterion-referenced tests created by individual teachers are also very common in American public schools. For example, a history teacher may devise a test to evaluate understanding and retention of a unit on World War II.
The criteria in this case might include the causes and timeline of the war, the nations that were involved, the dates and circumstances of major battles, and the names and roles of certain leaders. The teacher may design a test to evaluate student understanding of the criteria and determine a minimum passing score. While criterion-referenced test scores are often expressed as percentages, and many have minimum passing scores, the test results may also be scored or reported in alternative ways. As with minimum passing scores, proficiency levels are judgment calls made by individuals or groups that may choose to modify proficiency levels by raising or lowering them.
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The following are a few representative examples of how criterion-referenced tests and scores may be used:. Criterion-referenced tests are the most widely used type of test in American public education.
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All the large-scale standardized tests used to measure public-school performance, hold schools accountable for improving student learning results, and comply with state or federal policies—such as the No Child Left Behind Act—are criterion-referenced tests, including the assessments being developed to measure student achievement of the Common Core State Standards.
Criterion-referenced tests are used for these purposes because the goal is to determine whether educators and schools are successfully teaching students what they are expected to learn.
Criterion-referenced tests are also used by educators and schools practicing proficiency-based learning , a term that refers to systems of instruction, assessment, grading, and academic reporting that are based on students demonstrating mastery of the knowledge and skills they are expected to learn before they progress to the next lesson, get promoted to the next grade level, or receive a diploma.
Criterion-referenced tests are one method used to measure academic progress and achievement in relation to standards. Following a wide variety of state and federal policies aimed at improving school and teacher performance, criterion-referenced standardized tests have become an increasingly prominent part of public schooling in the United States. When focused on reforming schools and improving student achievement, these tests are used in a few primary ways:.
The widespread use of high-stakes standardized tests in the United States has made criterion-referenced tests an object of criticism and debate. While many educators believe that criterion-referenced tests are a fair and useful way to evaluate student, teacher, and school performance, others argue that the overuse, and potential misuse, of the tests could have negative consequences that outweigh their benefits.
The following are a few representative arguments typically made by proponents of criterion-referenced testing:. The following are representative arguments typically made by critics of criterion-referenced testing:.yuzu-washoku.com/components/2020-08-08/
Essay Test: Types, Advantages and Limitations | Statistics
The following are a few representative examples of how criterion-referenced tests and scores may be used: To determine whether students have learned expected knowledge and skills. For a related discussion, see formative assessment. To evaluate the effectiveness of teachers by factoring test results into job-performance evaluations. For a related discussion, see value-added measures.
To determine if a student or teacher is qualified to receive a license or certificate. To measure the academic achievement of students in a given state, usually for the purposes of comparing academic performance among schools and districts.
Standardized Testing: Fair or Not?
We need to value all the different ways students learn and value different ways of evaluating that learning. Students want to learn and want to show what they have learned and they know that standardized tests do not give them that opportunity. In response to Lindsay's answer, some recent reform of K standardized testing already includes the addition of essays and more critical thinking-type questions. For example, the Smarter Balanced Assessment will be administered in 17 states and the Virgin Islands for the first time in the school year.
My daughter's K-8 school in California just completed the Smarter Balanced Assessment, and she wrote multiple essays as a 7th grader. As indicated on the Smarter Balanced website, standardized testing must also address issues of "bias and insensitivity. Research has proven that multiple-choice exams are actually the least effective form by which to measure student learning. Educators are beginning to understand the importance of individual learning styles — some students learn best by listening, some by reading, some by doing, etc.
Tests are only one way to measure learning outcomes, and are often more about what instructors have provided than what students can demonstrate they have learned. Incorporating presentations, oral exams, and written finals in conjunction with written exams will allow students to demonstrate their knowledge and not their test-taking skills. Standardized testing is an "efficient" way to assess students, so the argument goes. And when a university admits thousands of students a year, they rely on such measures. But we know that the tests can be biased against minorities.
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In a perfect world, we would use portfolios, student interviews, resumes, letters of recommendation though it does seem that these are overused already. Is anyone even reading these letters that I produce by the dozens???? But those things all take time--and therefore they take money. Until we actually care enough about our education system to fund it well, we will have to rely on these kinds of standardized measures to assess. As a young teacher, I found Alfie Kohn's book on the subject useful in forming my ideas about the tests I had to administer to my students.
His words are still relevant, perhaps even more so. The very concept of "student achievement" begs the question, "What is education for? It is my view, as well as the view of some of the most important thinkers in history, that it is folly to attempt to measure the intellectual and emotional growth of a young human being. The school system is a creation of the industrial revolution and operates brilliantly to feed that socio-economic reality. Measures of student "achievement" are nothing more than arbitrary labeling of human beings for a list of types of jobs that need filling.
The question shouldn't be how to measure students but how to dismantle the mass factory system that prevents each of them from knowing and measuring themselves. There were several great and interesting answers to this question by the experts above, and I agree with some and disagree with others. I do agree that writing is a huge component of learning that such a high percentage of students struggle with in an extreme way.
Although standardized tests like the Smarter Balanced assessment do include writing, as did previous tests, the kind of writing tends to be very basic, and often times the topics are not very interesting, and certainly not of the students' choosing, or at times even in the neighborhood of where their thoughts and interests are rooted. That's why I am a bigger advocate of project-based learning, both in terms of writing, and also for other assessments such as oral presentation, research, community service and market research, etc. By immersing themselves in projects, students naturally become much more involved and interested in their work than sitting in a room with a timer, and being read a long list of boring instructions, then racing a stopwatch to finish.
They also have a limited number of materials at their disposal when performing standardized tests, and I know for a fact many of them LIKE to do research and consult multiple sources when reporting on a topic. I mentioned oral presentation, and I also love acting and improvisational techniques as a way for students to express themselves, and these can be assessed equally well.
As can the creation of videos, short films, book trailers, and powerpoint presentations that necessitate the use of images and various sound and video imaging programs.
These are all valuable assessed skills. And especially in the field of science, there are countless outdoor projects that can be implemented to demonstrate mastery of certain concepts. There are infinite other ways to assess students, but the issue always comes back to the "basics," and this is what we do need to know that students can prove they have mastered.
Is the standardized test the best way to show this? Probably not, but I do understand why we use them to sift out the masses and the sheer population of all the students involved. A daunting task indeed.
Different disciplines have better ways to assess understanding. However, most of them are very time consuming, an issue our overcrowded public schools must reckon with. For example, I want to be sure I know the students understand the process instead of just getting the "right" answer, so asking students to show work and show the process is a great tool for knowing what students do and do not understand, though this process is time consuming to a degree that can lead many teachers to go back toward just testing for the right answer.
Offering students a variety of ways to approach a project based on their learning styles is also a great way--and labor-intensive--mode of assessment.
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