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What's New in Testing and Assessment?

With the emergence of the educational accountability movement, the issue of fair and appropriate testing has become an issue of central focus.

By Marianne Ernesto

Policy Issues
Several issues relating to testing and assessment have been brought to national attention this past year as the reauthorizations of the American with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and Head Start have progressed. To address testing and assessment provisions proposed as part of the reauthorization of the IDEA, members of APA's Committee on Psychological Tests and Assessment formed a sub-committee specifically charged to considered issues related to the retention of the I.Q./achievement discrepancy criterion for identification of learning disabilities. The sub-committee's recommendations, which were reviewed and approved by the APA Board of Directors, were included as part of the IDEA related briefing material APA provides to various members of Congress.

Science Directorate staff has been carefully monitoring Head Start related activities in the House of Representatives over the past several months. Currently, the Senate's version of the bill reauthorizing Head Start is being reviewed, particularly provisions related to testing and assessment. Comments concerning the appropriate use of assessments for young children will be sent to Senate staff for review prior to the floor debate early next year.

Education and Advocacy
With the emergence of the educational accountability movement, the issue of fair and appropriate testing has become an issue of central focus. For many years, the Joint Committee on Testing Practices (JCTP), an ad hoc APA committee, has advocated for the fair use of testing practices. The group's member organizations, all of which have a connection to assessment in some way, represent school psychologists, counselors, psychometricians, testing directors, educators, and speech/language/hearing professionals. JCTP's core mission involves providing testing professionals with the information they need in order to carry out and promote good testing practices. With that goal in mind, and in order to be consistent with the newly revised Standards for Educational and Psychological Testing (1999), JCTP began the process of revising the Code of Fair Testing Practices in Education (Code) in 1999. The Code was initially developed by JCTP in 1988 as a statement of the primary obligations that professionals who develop or use educational tests have toward test takers. The APA Board of Directors recently approved the revised Code at its December 2003 meeting. The Code will now be sent to the APA Council of Representative for endorsement in February.

The ramifications of psychological testing on the Internet remains a central focus of the office of testing and assessment. The report of the Task Force on Psychological Testing on the Internet, Psychological Testing on the Internet: New Problems, Old Issues, was submitted (in condensed form) and accepted for publication in the American Psychologist (AP). Look for the report in spring 2004 issues of AP. The entire report (75 pages) will be available for downloading from the Science Directorate website shortly after publication. The report is a comprehensive overview of testing on the Internet and does not contain specific recommendations concerning APA policy. In the near future, CPTA will begin consideration of the report's findings and the possible policy implications for APA. The new year, will find members of CPTA considering several issues, they include: the release of test data in light of new Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) regulations and the new APA Ethics Code, observers in the testing situation, the utilization of cognitive examinations for assessment of learning disabilities as part of IDEA, and the evolution of the assessment provisions included in the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) legislation. You can keep up to date on all of CPTA's activities by visiting its new webpage scheduled for availability in spring 2004.