This information can help you identify areas in which students need further work, and can also help you assess the test itself: Were the questions worded clearly? Was the level of difficulty appropriate? If scores are uniformly high, for example, you may be doing everything right, or have an unusually good class. On the other hand, your test may not have measured what you intended it to. While essay and short-answer questions are easier to design than multiple-choice tests, they are more difficult and time-consuming to score.
Moreover, essay tests can suffer from unreliable grading; that is, grades on the same response may vary from reader to reader or from time to time by the same reader. For this reason, some faculty prefer short-answer items to essay tests. Regardless of the kind of exams you use, you can assess their effectiveness by asking yourself some basic questions:. Criterion-referenced tests may be high-stakes tests —i.
When testing companies develop criterion-referenced standardized tests for large-scale use, they usually have committees of experts determine the testing criteria and passing scores, or the number of questions students will need to answer correctly to pass the test. Scores on these tests are typically expressed as a percentage.
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For example, one group might determine that a minimum passing score is 70 percent correct answers, while another group might establish the cut-off score at 75 percent correct. For a related discussion, see proficiency. Criterion-referenced tests created by individual teachers are also very common in American public schools.
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For example, a history teacher may devise a test to evaluate understanding and retention of a unit on World War II. The criteria in this case might include the causes and timeline of the war, the nations that were involved, the dates and circumstances of major battles, and the names and roles of certain leaders.
The teacher may design a test to evaluate student understanding of the criteria and determine a minimum passing score. While criterion-referenced test scores are often expressed as percentages, and many have minimum passing scores, the test results may also be scored or reported in alternative ways. As with minimum passing scores, proficiency levels are judgment calls made by individuals or groups that may choose to modify proficiency levels by raising or lowering them. The following are a few representative examples of how criterion-referenced tests and scores may be used:.
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Criterion-referenced tests are the most widely used type of test in American public education. All the large-scale standardized tests used to measure public-school performance, hold schools accountable for improving student learning results, and comply with state or federal policies—such as the No Child Left Behind Act—are criterion-referenced tests, including the assessments being developed to measure student achievement of the Common Core State Standards. Criterion-referenced tests are used for these purposes because the goal is to determine whether educators and schools are successfully teaching students what they are expected to learn.
Criterion-referenced tests are also used by educators and schools practicing proficiency-based learning , a term that refers to systems of instruction, assessment, grading, and academic reporting that are based on students demonstrating mastery of the knowledge and skills they are expected to learn before they progress to the next lesson, get promoted to the next grade level, or receive a diploma. Criterion-referenced tests are one method used to measure academic progress and achievement in relation to standards.
Following a wide variety of state and federal policies aimed at improving school and teacher performance, criterion-referenced standardized tests have become an increasingly prominent part of public schooling in the United States. When focused on reforming schools and improving student achievement, these tests are used in a few primary ways:.
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The widespread use of high-stakes standardized tests in the United States has made criterion-referenced tests an object of criticism and debate. While many educators believe that criterion-referenced tests are a fair and useful way to evaluate student, teacher, and school performance, others argue that the overuse, and potential misuse, of the tests could have negative consequences that outweigh their benefits.
The following are a few representative arguments typically made by proponents of criterion-referenced testing:. The following are representative arguments typically made by critics of criterion-referenced testing:. The following are a few representative examples of how criterion-referenced tests and scores may be used: To determine whether students have learned expected knowledge and skills. For a related discussion, see formative assessment. To evaluate the effectiveness of teachers by factoring test results into job-performance evaluations.
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For a related discussion, see value-added measures. To determine if a student or teacher is qualified to receive a license or certificate. To measure the academic achievement of students in a given state, usually for the purposes of comparing academic performance among schools and districts. To measure the academic achievement of students in a given country, usually for the purposes of comparing academic performance among nations. Reform Criterion-referenced tests are the most widely used type of test in American public education.
When focused on reforming schools and improving student achievement, these tests are used in a few primary ways: To hold schools and educators accountable for educational results and student performance.