WMU News

New book looks at better ways to evaluate students

Feb. 4, 2003

KALAMAZOO -- From creating quizzes to grading essays to parent-teacher conferences, student evaluation is a fact of academic life for school administrators, teachers, and parents. The task is never an easy one, but a new book by the Joint Committee on Standards for Educational Evaluation may help educators do a better job of evaluating student performance.

"The Student Evaluation Standards," recently published by SAGE Publications affiliate Corwin Press, offers 28 guidelines for ensuring that evaluations of students are fair, useful, feasible and accurate.

The book's contents are already approved by the American National Standards Institute as an American National Standard. The book is the first to offer a wide range of professional standards for evaluating students.

"If you take a group of educators and tell them to lay out their content, coursework, and classroom practices, you'd find that one-fifth to one-third of their time is spent on student evaluation," says Dr. Arlen Gullickson, the committee's chairperson and director of Western Michigan University's Evaluation Center, where the Joint Committee is based. "Despite the large role of student evaluation in every classroom, new teachers are ill-prepared for this work, and few teachers are provided the time, resources and support to develop their skills on the job."

Too often, teachers are expected to make complex judgments about how best to guide, measure and report on student learning--without having the proper knowledge or tools to do so, Gullickson says. The new standards, which have been applied in at least 70 field tests, will help educators in schools deal with evaluation barriers.

"Schools will have to confront their own issues in different ways, but these standards will help them develop clear-cut student evaluation policies," Gullickson says. The new guide also is useful to those in higher education, where such issues as grade inflation, negative teacher evaluations, avoidance of research papers and student cheating continue to be of concern.

Members of the Joint Committee, who have been working on the standards for five years, come from 16 national education and professional groups, including the American Association of School Administrators, the American Educational Research Association, the National Education Association and the National School Boards Association.

The need for sound student evaluations is stronger than ever, they say, especially given the increased federal attention given to high-stakes standardized tests, local school performance, and the current federal mandate to "leave no child behind." Members of the committee maintain that sound student evaluations have an impact beyond the classroom, extending to employment decisions, teacher evaluations, school programming, policies and public accountability.

Additionally, committee members believe the standards should prove useful to counselors, administrators, parents and those active in educational reform.

The new book, which can be obtained from the publisher at <www.corwinpress.com>, follows the committee's other comprehensive works: "The Personnel Evaluation Standards," which was published in 1988, and "The Program Evaluation Standards," which first appeared in 1994.

"The Student Evaluation Standards" will be introduced to educational policy makers and national media at a Washington, D.C., event Tuesday, Feb. 4. The event, which will be held at the Bank of America in downtown Washington, is sponsored by ETS--Educational Testing Service--and will feature WMU's Dr. Arlen Gullickson and other national education leaders.

Media contact: Cheryl Roland, 269 387-8400, cheryl.roland@wmich.edu

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