ERIC Identifier: ED286938 Publication Date: 1984-00-00
Author: Wildemuth, Barbara M. Source: ERIC Clearinghouse
on Tests Measurement and Evaluation Princeton NJ.
Alternatives to Standardized Tests. ERIC Digest.
The use of standardized tests by schools is commonly criticized. The tests do
not necessarily test what students have learned. They do not reveal what the
student has achieved.
Critics have further suggested that alternatives to standardized tests be
developed and used for more effective student evaluation. Such alternatives have
included criterion-referenced tests, teacher-made tests, contract grading,
interviews with students and their parents, and detailed documentation of a
student's accomplishments. Each of these alternatives is described briefly
Criterion-referenced tests are designed to evaluate the accomplishment of
specifically stated instructional objectives. They may resemble norm-referenced
tests in format and in type of administration and scoring. They differ in the
way they are interpreted: on a criterion-referenced test, a student's
performance is evaluated in terms of the performance of the other students
taking the test. In this way, criterion-referenced tests can be more useful to
teachers in identifying and planning remedial instruction in the areas in which
an individual student of the entire class has demonstrated weaknesses.
Teacher-made tests are advocated because they can be tailored to specific
curricula or specific needs for information about students. Generally,
teacher-made tests are criterion-referenced and are designed to measure
students' mastery of the material being taught. They can provide information on
small units of instruction not covered by standardized tests. For best results,
teachers require opportunities for training in the development and use of tests.
In a contract grading system, the teacher and student agree at the beginning
of a unit on particular course objectives to be fulfilled by the student, on the
support to be provided by the instructor, and on how the results will be
evaluated. The contract provides a form of record keeping that documents student
achievement in relation to specified objectives. Upon completion of a contract,
teacher and student cooperatively evaluate the work, choose new assignments, and
seek to clarify previous or newly stated objectives. One caution is in order: a
contract should be used as a process for learning rather than merely an
instrument for getting a job done.
Interviews with students and parents can also yield information useful in
evaluating the student's progress. An interview with a student can be as
specific as a teacher sitting with a child and asking him or her to share
information about how to solve particular mathematics problems. Or it may be
broad and probe classroom activities, student-peer interaction, classroom
problems, and teacher and school goals. Parent interviews may yield unique ways
of looking at their child's progress and promote a renewed interest in their
Documentation of students and their work should include examples of the
child's work (such as drawings or photos), the child's journal, the child's
notebook or written work, the teacher's weekly records and assessment of the
child's work, the teacher's reports to the parents, and sociograms. Extensive
descriptions of the child's total involvement in the learning process should be
included. Analysis of such documentation can provide meaningful evaluation of
FOR MORE INFORMATION
Muir, Sharon, and Wells, Candace. "Informal Evaluation." SOCIAL STUDIES 74
Quinto, Frances, and McKenna, Bernard. ALTERNATIVES TO STANDARDIZED TESTING.
Washington, DC: National Education Association, Division of Instruction and
Professional Development, 1977. ED 190 591.
STANDARDIZED ACHIEVEMENT TESTING. Washington, DC: National School Boards
Association, 1977. ED 152 797.
Stiggins, Richard J. EVALUATING STUDENTS BY CLASSROOM OBSERVATION: WATCHING
STUDENTS GROW. Washington, DC: National Education Association, 1984.
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