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[Susan notes: Good point. In our glee over SAT's fiascos, we must not miss the real outrage of high stakes standardized tests. If they were guaranteed to be scored perfectly every time, they'd still be an outrage.]

Published in USA Today
04/12/2006

To the editor


Defenders of standardized tests claim that the main issue in the recent SAT scoring fiasco is the exam sponsor's poor "corporate crisis management" in failing to promptly disclose the full scope of the error.



That analysis ignores much more important concerns. Tests will always be imprecise measures, reflecting the subjectivity and errors of the humans who manufacture and administer them. That is one reason why the assessment profession's own guidelines, the Standards for Educational

and Psychological Testing, warn against using exam scores as the sole factor to make major decisions.



The real problem occurs when these flawed tools are improperly used to enforce "standards" and "accountability." In one recent case, 4,100

prospective teachers were falsely told they had failed a licensing exam that they actually passed. The resulting lawsuit ended with a payment of

$11.1 million by the test manufacturer. In several states, high school graduation tests were scored incorrectly and diplomas erroneously withheld.



The SAT scoring error should be a wake-up call. Policymakers must back away from their misuse of high-stakes tests. If they refuse to, more and

more damage from serious errors is inevitable.



Robert Schaeffer

Public Education Director

FairTest: National Center for Fair & Open Testing

Cambridge, Mass.

Robert Schaefer


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