A blog about economics instruction. "Things should be made as simple as possible, but not any simpler."--Albert Einstein

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Assessment--You Have to Measure Something Meaningful

Florida is best known as the home of palm trees, hanging chads, hurricanes, and missing children. It is also the home of Hillsborough High, the nation's 10th ranked high school according to Newsweek magazine. If the state of Florida ranked schools, the school would likely be a wee bit lower in those rankings. You see, Hillsborough High received the grade of D in an assessment performed by the state. How can these differences in the performance of the school be reconciled? There is a lesson for instructors.

The linked story tells us that

The Newsweek list is based on a single factor: the number of Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate tests taken by all students at a school, divided by the number of graduating seniors. The students don't have to do well on the tests either. It matters only that they take them.

Test scores? No.

Graduation rates? Nope.

Closing the achievement gap between whites and minorities? Forget it.

Unsound assessments are performed all the time. Take the example of student self assessment. A student predicts an A on the next exam after answering all questions correctly on a self test that the student created. The problem is that the student's questions are all at the first level in Bloom's taxonomy, requiring only that the student recall definitions.

Sound assessments measure at least four abilities: comprehension, interpretation, analysis, and synthesis. I'll discuss the question of how to create sound assessments in economics classes in a follow up post later this month.



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