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Variety and Drift in the Functions and Purposes of Assessment in K–12 Education


by Andrew D. Ho — 2014

Background/Context: The target of assessment validation is not an assessment but the use of an assessment for a purpose. Although the validation literature often provides examples of assessment purposes, comprehensive reviews of these purposes are rare. Additionally, assessment purposes posed for validation are generally described as discrete and static.

Purpose/Objective/Research Question/Focus of Study: This paper has two goals. The first is to synthesize recent frameworks that differentiate among purposes of large-scale standardized assessments. The second is to describe the forces that shape the purposes of any particular assessment over time. The author highlights the tendency of assessment purposes toward purpose drift, where purposes evolve and differentiate from purposes originally intended. The author argues that this process is predictable enough that validation practices that ignore drift are incomplete and insufficient.

Research Design: This paper is comprised of a synthesis of past validation frameworks and a case-based argument in favor of expanding these frameworks.

Conclusions/Recommendations: If predictable forces cause the purposes of an assessment program to expand beyond the purposes originally validated, then conventional validation approaches proposed in the assessment literature are incomplete. Validation efforts should follow known vectors that propagate purpose drift and address the appropriateness of the purposes at the destinations of these vectors. Vectors include the aggregation of scores to support group-level inferences, the disaggregation of student results into scores for diagnostic or formative purposes, and rising stakes on metrics like “adequate yearly progress” and “teacher value added.”



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Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 116 Number 11, 2014, p. 1-18
http://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 17648, Date Accessed: 12/13/2017 11:45:41 AM

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About the Author
  • Andrew Ho
    Harvard Graduate School of Education
    E-mail Author
    ANDREW D. HO is Professor of Education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. His research interests involve statistical and psychometric methods to improve high-stakes educational accountability metrics. His recent publications include a practitioner-oriented review of growth models (Castellano & Ho, 2013) and the development of an ordinal framework for estimating achievement gaps (Ho & Reardon, 2012). Castellano, K. E., & Ho, A. D. (2013). A practitioner's guide to growth models. Council of Chief State School Officers. Retrieved from Scholar.Harvard.edu; Ho, A. D., & Reardon, S. F. (2012). Estimating achievement gaps from test scores reported in ordinal “proficiency” categories. Journal of Educational and Behavioral Statistics, 37, 489-517. Retrieved from scholar.harvard.edu.
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