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Education Administrators Associates
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Education Administrators Associates was initiated by Dr. John Brownridge, an educator and school principal with extensive knowledge and expertise in the field of Education, and experience in both North America and the United Kingdom. EAA's objective is to offer resource, assistance, and consultation to professional educators in the English-speaking world.

A variety of issues of interest and concern to educators will be presented and considered in this blog on a weekly basis. All educators, whether teachers, administrators or consultants, are invited to comment on the Contacts Page.

None of us can be experts in every field. Yet, as teachers we are expected to be knowledgeable on a whole range of topics, especially those that relate directly or indirectly to education. The parents of our students frequently have questions and concerns about curriculum, special programs, and new innovations they have heard about through news media. Our colleagues, friends and acquaintances may seek explanations and definitions. It is in our own interest to have a cursory knowledge of issues outside our areas of expertise, and to be capable of providing some insight into a variety of educational topics.

This weekly blog will explore many educational topics. Please check in on a regular basis, and do feel free to submit your comments and questions on the Contacts Page. As teachers, we have a wealth of experience to share.

John Brownridge

This Week

Criterion-Referenced Testing

Although academic testing is usually defined as either norm referenced or criterion referenced, the American College Testing program (ACT) interprets all test results in terms of both ranking and performance, indicating that test classification refers not to the test itself but to the manner in which it is used.

A norm-referenced test seeks to establish placement within the population of people who have taken the test. That is, the score is used to indicate ranking by comparing it to the scores of other test takers. This may be useful information in that it shows how students compare to normal expectations for their age group or academic level, but ranking does not give any information about a student’s ability to deal with the subject matter at hand. This information can only be obtained from a criterion-referenced interpretation of the same test scores.

Confusion about criterion-referenced testing can easily arise. Some criterion-referenced tests, for example, are used to assess the level of mastery by comparing the results obtained to a minimum cut-off score.  This pass/fail level is meant to indicate the point at which subject matter has been adequately learned. It is tempting to believe that the cut-off score itself is the criterion referred to by the test objectives, but this is incorrect. The criterion of the test is the subject matter and the scores obtained are an indication of the test taker’s knowledge of it. Indeed, some criterion-referenced testing makes no use of a cut-off score but concentrates only on the actual knowledge of the subject matter.

Criterion-referenced testing must be used when information about future performance is required. High school examinations and professional entry assessments are obvious examples of this. A high school graduation certificate is proof that a certain level of academic ability has been reached and it is by interpreting performance scores in relation to subject content that educators are able to reach this conclusion. Likewise, the professions need to know that potential new members are likely to perform satisfactorily, and it is through criterion-referenced interpretation of test scores that they are able to determine this.

All state governments have certain expectations with regard to the outcomes of formal education and these are usually stated in terms of required academic standards. Because of this, education authorities have devised standardized tests in order to determine whether or not their students have reached the appropriate level in various subject areas. The only way to do this efficiently is through criterion-referenced testing.

It is important that the authors of standardized tests can accurately relate them to government required standards, because otherwise, students may be passed or failed inappropriately. Some standardized tests, for example, have failed up to 80% of the students who wrote them, indicating a serious inconsistency in government requirements and test objectives. Others tests have passed up to 80% of students and this is an indication of the same problem.

Both norm-referenced and criterion-referenced testing are required in a typical educational environment. All education jurisdictions need to be aware of how their standards compare to other authorities, but in order to assess individual progress as well as progressive pedagogical methods, criterion-referenced testing is absolutely essential.

John Brownridge

Next Week

Psychology of Adolescence