President's Message

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From Randy Bennett, ETS, President of NCME, March 2018

In the past two President’s messages, I described progress on the four directions that I hoped the organization would move toward to help ensure NCME’s continued relevance and long-term success. In this quarter’s message, I’d like to report on our activities related to one of those directions:

• Influence the national discourse on testing and measurement through policy positions and other appropriate mechanisms that engage a variety of audiences.

To begin to build a presence in the education policy community, NCME held its first policy seminar in Washington, DC, on February 7 in collaboration with the George Washington University Graduate School of Education and Human Development (GSEHD). The speaker was John B. King, former US Secretary of Education and now President and CEO of the Education Trust. Dr. King addressed issues of equity in education and of the role of assessment in promoting and preserving equity. The talk was attended by some 80 people and live-streamed to a few dozen more.  Michael Feuer, GSEHD Dean and former director of the National Academies’ Board on Testing and Assessment, was the discussant. Because of the seminar’s success, the Board voted to hold at least one policy-oriented seminar per year in Washington, DC, going forward.

The King seminar was followed by the Board’s winter meeting to which we invited members of the education policy community so that we could better understand current issues and make known NCME’s willingness to advise where appropriate.  Lillian Pace, Senior Director of National Policy at Knowledge Works, joined the Board for part of its meeting. Knowledge Works is a nonprofit focused on advancing personalized learning. A former Capitol Hill staff member, Ms. Pace recently worked with the US Education Department to create the innovative-assessment-pilot provisions of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), the successor to No Child Left Behind (NCLB). The innovative assessment pilot allows for up to seven states to try out new approaches to measurement in a subset of their school districts. Knowledge Works’ interest in the pilot is in part driven by state education department staffers’ claim that the biggest impediment to personalized learning is the existing federally mandated approach to grade-level oriented, standards-based assessment and accountability. Only one state has applied for the ESSA innovative assessment pilot, in part because of the belief that the field’s technical standards, as well as those used by the US Education Department for peer review, are oriented towards standardized tests. A role for NCME is to help Knowledge Works, and education agency personnel, understand how the Standards for Educational and Psychological Testing can be applied to innovative measures.

Liz King, Senior Policy Analyst and Director of Education Policy at the  Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, also joined the Board meeting. The Leadership Conference is made up of organizations that represent African-American, Asian, Hispanic, Native American, female, and disability rights constituencies. Also a former Capitol Hill staff member, Ms. King described how the school accountability and standards movements established under NCLB worked to advance education for traditionally underserved students. NCLB established the expectation that each school hold virtually all students to the same grade-level standards. Further, for the first time, schools had to disaggregate assessment results by demographic group, revealing the extent to which each school—including high-achieving ones—was successfully serving all student groups. Her observations made clear that the commonly heard negative narrative associated with school accountability and standards-based assessment is not the only one. From a civil rights’ perspective, the view is quite different, with school accountability and standards-based assessment playing a critical and very positive role.
A last development of note with respect to this direction is that the NCME Board approved for member comment a Position Statement on Test Security, to which Steve Ferrara contributed centrally, along with the members of the Committee on Informing Assessment Policy and Practice led by Judy Koenig. The intention behind such position statements is for us to articulate for ourselves what we stand for. From those statements, we can then craft and disseminate messages specifically tailored for the audiences we wish to influence. Four other statements are in revision or being drafted, including Theory of Action for Testing Programs, Use of College Admissions Tests for Unintended Purposes, English Learners and Accountability, and Classroom Assessment. If approved, it is our intention that the Outreach and Partnership Committee, led by Stephen Benton, take the lead in dissemination efforts.

In other news, the NCME Board has selected Linda Cook and Mary Pitoniak as co-editors for Educational Measurement, 5th Edition. Educational Measurement has been the bible in our field since the first edition was published by ACE in 1951. Please join me in congratulating Linda and Mary on their selection!

Finally, our annual meeting in New York City is right around the corner. At its conclusion, we will welcome to the NCME Board Vice President Steve Sireci (University of Massachusetts, Amherst), and members Debbie Durrence (Gwinnett County, Georgia, Schools) and Andrew Ho (Harvard University).

I look forward to seeing each of you in New York so I can greet you in my home-town dialect with an enthusiastic, “HowYaDoin!”

All the best,
Randy Bennett