ent disciplines had differing views about test scores as measures of learning outcomes and the types of inferences that are appropriate from the results. For example, economists routinely use achievement test scores as indicators of student learning, understanding that the scores are not perfect as indicators of learning but are the best quantitative measures available for statistical analyses (e.g., Rivkin, Hanushek, and Kain, 2005). Achievement test scores, in particular, have been found to be correlated with other outcomes, such as high school completion, college enrollment and completion, job status, future earnings, and other measures of success (e.g., Carnevale, Fry, and Lowell, 2001; Chiswick, Lee, and Miller, 2002; Jencks et al., 1979; McIntosh and Vignoles, 2001; Sewell, Hauser, and Featherman, 1976; Tyler, Murnane, and Willett, 2000).
Psychometricians, who are trained in the processes and methods for developing tests, focus on whether test scores are valid measures of learning and whether interpretations drawn about them are appropriate. In the present context, achievement tests have not been developed for the purpose of evaluating the effectiveness of teachers’ instructional practices. Tests developed specifically to assess teaching could look different from those used for measuring student achievement.
Furthermore, among teachers and teacher educators, test scores are viewed as, at best, only correlated with student learning. Teachers are familiar with curriculum and state and local standards and how tests relate to them, and they are aware that tests capture only a portion of what they teach and what students learn. They know that exceptional students can perform poorly on tests and low-performing students can do well on tests. They know that tests vary in the extent to which they assess critical thinking, problem solving, and higher order thinking skills.
Many of the skills that the national board requires teachers to demonstrate are not reflected by what is evaluated on standardized achievement tests. For example, to become board certified in the middle childhood generalist area, teachers need to demonstrate that they can establish a caring and stimulating learning environment, that they respect individual differences, that they use a rich and varied collection of materials in their teaching, that they provide multiple paths to learning, and that they provide students with situations when they can apply what they have learned (National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, 2001c). All this is in addition to demonstrating their understanding of the subject matter, the curriculum, and pedagogy.
In evaluating the body of research covered in this chapter, the committee was cognizant of the limitations as well as the different disciplinary perspectives. Throughout this report, we have attempted to portray a balanced perspective of this research and the use of student test scores for these purposes.