Independent Oversight Body

The complexity of consumer products and the demands for information by consumers have led to the creation of independent organizations that provide reputable, sound information about the quality and limitations of consumer options. Most notable among these organizations are Consumers Union, which publishes the widely respected Consumer Reports, and Good Housekeeping Magazine, whose seal of approval buyers look for and manufacturers covet.

George Madaus and his colleagues have proposed the creation of an independent organization to monitor and audit high-stakes testing programs (Madaus et al., 1993, 1997):

Evaluating and monitoring testing programs does mean, however, that the public which pays for such programs and those that use and are directly affected by such tests should have assurances that the programs are technically sound, that the benefits outweigh harms for all groups in society, that negative side effects are minimized, and that misuses are curtailed (Madaus et al., 1993:3).

This proposal, which would reconstitute the National Commission on Testing and Public Policy (1990), is not intended to establish a regulatory body per se, nor is it aimed at awarding a seal of approval to particular programs. Rather, it is intended to improve test use by monitoring test programs.

The proposed commission would include experts from a variety of fields and representatives of test user groups. It would establish a standing technical panel, creating other panels as needed. The commission would conduct public forums, sponsor research, hold workshops for educators and policymakers, and disseminate information through a variety of media. The commission's evaluative judgments would be based on the Joint Standards as well as other criteria, applying them in the context of their use. The goal would be to offer formative assistance, encouraging test makers and users to improve their design and implementation as part of their professional practice.

The proposed commission could supplement the labeling approach described below by providing a forum for educating the profession and the public about testing practice. It could also serve as a deterrent to inappropriate practices by creating the prospect of adverse publicity (House, 1998).

Even in conjunction with other approaches, however, this proposal should be evaluated in terms of both its potential benefits and its potential shortcomings. First, although an oversight body can certainly identify

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