Since the introduction of the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act of 2001, education in the United States has, in the words of President Bush, been seen as “a national priority and a local responsibility.” The first of the four basic education reform principles stated in the NCLB Act is local accountability for results. The second principle, flexibility and local control, empowers states to create their own standards and to test every student’s progress using tests aligned with these standards. In addition, there are also programs to promote the alignment of technology with educational goals within the NCLB legislation. In more and more states, school performance is assessed by means of a standardized assessment test which is designed to assess the academic level of students, schools, and districts. It is also intended to assist in identifying students’ strengths and weaknesses and to foster improvements in academic achievement. In one such state (that will remain anonymous) the reading and mathematics portions of the exam are administered to grades 5, 8, and 11.
Key Terms in this Chapter
Measurement: Measurement is defined as the process of determining the characteristics of an educational process, program, or curriculum through the use of an accepted standard or applied criteria in an effort to compare performance or learning.
Criterion Referenced Assessment: Learner performance is compared to a well-defined set of criteria appropriate for a particular content or set of specific objectives, such as the ability to look a word up in the dictionary, multiplying two digit numbers, and so forth. Criterion referenced interpretations deals with performance within the specific domain and evaluates a learner’s ability within that domain. Criterion-referenced assessment does not consider the relative performance of the learner as compared to peers.
Data Gathering: Data gathering is the process of collecting data of software measures to help us improve an educational process. The purposes of data gathering include characterization (e.g., describing weaknesses and strengths), assessment (e.g., evaluating program effectiveness), evaluation (e.g., examining the quality of the educational process or learner outcomes), control, prediction, and improvement. Data is most effectively gathered according to specific objectives and a plan. Data gathered without a clear objective is unlikely to be useful. The choice of data to be gathered is based on a model or hypothesis about the process being examined, and the data gathering process must consider its impact on the entire organization since it can be very expensive and time-consuming. Finally, effective data gathering has management support.
Correlation Assessment: A correlation is defined as a causal, complementary, parallel, or reciprocal relationship found to exist between various variables examined during an investigation and based on specific criteria. The value of a correlation co-efficient can vary from minus one to plus one. A minus one indicates a perfect negative correlation, while a plus one indicates a perfect positive correlation. A correlation of zero means there is no relationship between the two variables. When there is a negative correlation between two variables, as the value of one variable increases, the value of the other variable decreases, and vise versa. In other words, for a negative correlation, the variables work opposite each other. When there is a positive correlation between two variables, as the value of one variable increases, the value of the other variable also increases. The variables move together.
Assessment: A related series of measures used to determine a complex attribute of an individual or group of individuals. Generally, the term connotes a broader implication than measurement, although the terms are often used interchangeably.
No Child Left Behind Act of 2001: (Public Law 107-110), commonly known as NCLB, is a United States federal law signed on January 8, 2002 that reauthorizes a number of federal programs aiming to improve the performance of U.S. primary and secondary schools by increasing the standards of accountability for states, school districts, and schools, as well as providing parents more flexibility in choosing which schools their children will attend. Additionally, it promotes an increased focus on reading and re-authorizes the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA). NCLB is the latest federal legislation which enacts the theories of standards-based education reform, formerly known as outcome-based education which is based on the belief that high expectations and setting of goals will result in success for all students (Wikipedia, 2007 AU21: The in-text citation "Wikipedia, 2007" is not in the reference list. Please correct the citation, add the reference to the list, or delete the citation. ).
Standardized Tests: Standardized tests are achievement tests that measure the knowledge, skills, and abilities defined as learning standards or curricula by educational agencies. One such example is the achievement test that measures what students know or are able to do at the time of the test assuming that the learner has been afforded the opportunity to learn the content through instruction or training. Tests are typically divided into content areas (e.g., reading, writing, mathematics, science, etc.) composed of sub-categories, or components, for which a more meaningful score is provided. These scores allow further analysis of a learner’s performance.
Norm Referenced Assessment: An evaluation of learning based on a comparison of one learner’s performance to that of another given a similar learning situation or circumstance (i.e., class or course). For example, how well a student did on a test is often described in terms of how the other students in the class did. Norm referenced interpretations are limited because they do not say what a learner can or cannot do, but rather focus only on the relative performance of one learner to another.