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From Randy Bennett, ETS, President of NCME, September 2017
In the June President’s message, I outlined four directions that I hoped the organization would move toward because I felt those directions were very important to NCME’s continued relevance and long-term success. The directions were for NCME to:
• Influence the national discourse on testing and measurement through policy positions and other appropriate mechanisms that engage a variety of audiences;
• Encourage research and development that makes assessment a stronger force for positive impact on teaching and learning;
• Encourage and promote the positive influences of classroom assessment on measurement, and the positive influences of measurement on classroom assessment; and
• Take greater advantage of its international character.
As I noted in the message, these directions are very ambitious, so even incremental achievements in the service of each should be of considerable value.
In the current president’s message, I’d like to briefly describe our progress on the latter two of those directions because they represent new paths for NCME that respond to the changing nature of education and educational measurement.
During his term, Past President Mark Wilson took steps so that NCME could encourage and promote the positive influences of classroom assessment on measurement, and the positive influences of measurement on classroom assessment. The reasoning was that a vast amount of assessment takes place in classrooms, carried out by teachers, students, and (increasingly) by software. NCME members may have much to contribute to the development and improvement of those types of assessment and as much to learn from them.
Following this direction, NCME sponsored a special conference, “Classroom Assessment and Large-Scale Psychometrics: The Twain Shall Meet,” hosted by the Achievement and Assessment Institute at the University of Kansas earlier this month. More than 250 individuals, including teachers and school district administrators, gathered to explore where the meeting of these two distinct types of assessment might be. Their explorations were facilitated through a variety of formats, including structured poster sessions, panel conversations, demonstrations, and, in one case, a “book-club” session in which the audience discussed the presenters’ paper. This year’s special conference was only a beginning. I’m pleased to report that the NCME Board thought that the conference was a great success and has therefore approved the following: a second conference on classroom assessment to take place in 2018, a call for organizations to host a potential 2019 gathering, and continued work by the Classroom Assessment Task Force to chart a vision for NCME’s future activities on this critically important topic.
The second direction on which I wish to report is for NCME to take greater advantage of its international character. Underlying this direction is that NCME already has such a character today. First, we have a significant number of members who reside in countries outside the United States, many of whom regularly attend our annual conference and contribute to the organization in multiple ways. Second, many of our domestic members grew up overseas and maintain professional relationships in their home countries. What these facts mean is that NCME has an existing, and largely untapped, international network.
Why might this international network be worth tapping and even expanding? One reason is that there is a lot NCME has to offer. The methodological advances created by our membership are typically general, with applications that easily cross national boundaries. A second reason is that there is a lot we might learn from colleagues working outside the United States with whom we are not yet in regular contact. Finally, our organization’s membership has been declining for several years, most noticeably in terms of new subscriptions. Tapping into our international network might be one way we can help reverse that trend.
What does tapping into and potentially expanding our international network mean in practical terms? One action the Board approved is for NCME to become a member of the International Test Commission (ITC) and of the International Association for Educational Assessment (IAEA). According to their website, the ITC is “… an association of national psychological associations, test commissions, publishers and other organizations committed to promoting effective testing and assessment policies and to the proper development, evaluation and uses of educational and psychological instruments.” In contrast, the IAEA membership includes examining bodies, university departments, research organizations, and government agencies. Its website notes that IAEA’s focus is “… to help advance, through professional interchange, the science and practice of educational assessment by organizations around the world.” Some NCME members already have ties to one or both of these associations1 and our organization’s membership will formalize those ties. Our joining might also allow individual NCME members to attend the ITC and IAEA conferences at the member rates. The 2018 ITC conference will be held in Montréal, Canada (28th of June to 7th of July) and the 2018 IAEA conference will take place in Oxford, England (9th through the 14th of September).
Perhaps more consequentially, we have taken initial steps toward creating what could be the first in a potential series of dual-language electronic journals—rigorous, peer-reviewed publications under the NCME umbrella. We believe that the first electronic journal in this potential series should be in Chinese and English.
Why a Chinese/English electronic journal? The answer is that the assessment community in China is large and quickly growing. In addition, the domestic Chinese representation in our membership is also very substantial. Together, these populations provide the potential for a significant audience, an extensive pool of qualified editorial board members and peer reviewers, and a well of possible manuscripts. Such a journal would ideally build a bridge, bringing work from a dynamic overseas assessment community to the United States and, simultaneously, allowing members in our own domestic community to write for an overseas scientific audience. The vision is that the journal would accept articles in Chinese as well as English and, ideally, publish each article in both languages so that all NCME members could benefit. If successful, other NCME foreign-language publications could potentially follow.
The NCME Board’s belief is that members are generally supportive of this idea. A survey conducted earlier this month received responses from 187 individuals who appeared to reflect the diversity of our membership in terms of institutional affiliation, age, and membership type. The survey found that 61% of respondents were in favor, 25% were neutral, and 14% were against the idea.
To be successful, we believe that such a journal would need a Chinese institutional cosponsor, ideally one embedded in that country’s assessment community. A highly respected institution has shown interest and the NCME Board has approved entering into negotiations toward a partnership. The Board has further designated Li Cai of the NCME Publications Committee and me to act on behalf of NCME as the negotiating team. The desired result of the negotiations will be a draft agreement that stipulates the journal’s audience and substantive focus, the financial and other responsibilities of each of the institutional parties (i.e., NCME and its Chinese partner), and other factors. The draft agreement will be brought to the NCME Board for review, discussion, and a final decision.
An additional aid toward success would be access to translation expertise at low cost. As it turns out, there is a cadre of NCME members who served in translation roles before entering our field or who in other ways developed fluency in both languages. A number of those individuals have already volunteered their time should the journal move forward. NCME publications exist only because of the voluntary contributions of you, our members. It’s very heartening to know that there is a ready pool of members who want to continue that honored tradition in this new and important way.
It’s critical to note that the intent in pursuing this direction is not to change the U.S. focus of NCME, nor to duplicate the missions of other organizations like the ITC, the Psychometric Society, or the IAEA, but rather to significantly enhance what NCME already does (i.e., attract foreign members, influence measurement research and practice worldwide, and serve our core domestic membership by offering them opportunities to publish and consume the results of high-quality scholarship). Dual-language publications might be one way to achieve those goals more effectively.
If you have reactions to the directions I’ve described, please email me (firstname.lastname@example.org), with a copy to Executive Director Elizabeth Franks (email@example.com). We very much want to hear from you!
The coming months will be exciting and I look forward to hearing from you—and working with you—with respect to making NCME the most influential, relevant, and vibrant organization that it can possibly be.