WMU News

Putting measurement tools to the test

Aug. 15, 2003

KALAMAZOO -- More than ever before, schools, parents, politicians and communities are using student performance on tests as the definitive measuring stick for how well students learn.

No one is arguing against increased accountability or improved academic standings, but putting too much stock in test results is hardly healthy for education, says Dr. Arlen Gullickson, director of the Evaluation Center at WMU. "I liken them to a thermometer," he says. "A good thermometer is a very useful tool, but it's only one method for measuring."

Gullickson chairs the national Joint Committee on Standards for Educational Evaluation, which recently published "The Student Evaluation Standards." Nationwide, educators and administrators are pushing students to post top scores on exams that help determine whether, under federal guidelines, their school is improving.

"When we become too reliant on standardized tests, we set goals that tend to push the bottom higher, while detracting from higher level learning. What happens to the upper-level student who is on task? The trend now focuses on learning for the annual test rather than the day-to-day," says Gullickson. "Careful attention must be paid to coordinate student learning and to evaluate in the most effective way possible," he says. "It needs to pay off in the long run, not just on test day."

Arlen Gullickson can be reached at (269) 387-5895 or <arlen.gullickson@wmich.edu>.

Media contact: Gail Towns, 269 387-8400, gail.towns@wmich.edu

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