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Validity for What Purpose?


by Lorrie A. Shepard — 2013

Background/Context: The evolution of validity understandings from mid-century to now has emphasized that test validity depends on test purpose—adding consequence considerations to issues of interpretation and evidentiary warrants.

Purpose: To consider the tensions created by multiple purposes for assessment and sketch briefly how we got to where we are; furthermore, to address two critically important purposes: the accountability purpose versus the learning purpose for assessment.

Research Design: This is an analytic, closing commentary to this special section.

Conclusions: When a test is used as an educational reform, the theory of action behind the reform should be made explicit and that theory or series of claims and assumptions is what should be examined in the validity evaluation. As to the prospect of improving the teaching profession by the use of value-added methods, I believe that this is an overly ambitious use of a potentially useful statistical tool. As these systems are being implemented, we can and should conduct validity studies designed to detect plausible shortcomings and side effects as well as intended outcomes.



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Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 115 Number 9, 2013, p. 1-12
http://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 17116, Date Accessed: 12/17/2017 2:48:00 PM

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About the Author
  • Lorrie Shepard
    University of Colorado - Boulder
    E-mail Author
    LORRIE A. SHEPARD is University Distinguished Professor and Dean of the School of Education at the University of Colorado Boulder. Her research focuses on psychometrics and the use and misuse of tests in educational settings. Her technical work has contributed to validity theory, standard setting, and statistical models for detecting test bias. Her research studies on test use have addressed the identification of learning disabilities, readiness screening for kindergarten, grade retention, teacher testing, effects of high-stakes accountability testing, and most recently the use of classroom assessment to support teaching and learning. Dr. Shepard is past president of the American Educational Research Association and past president of the National Council on Measurement in Education. She was elected to the National Academy of Education in 1992 and is the immediate past president of the NAEd.
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