New Testing Standards Released

General Testing

The latest edition of Standards for Educational and Psychological Testing, the measurement profession’s official statement of its principles, has been released. Produced jointly by the American Educational Research Association, the American Psychological Association, and the National Council on Measurement in Education, the Standards are frequently referenced in legal challenges to tests.


Though the new revision is far longer than previous versions, there are few substantive changes from an assessment reform perspective. Perhaps most importantly, the 1999 Standards retains language against using tests as a sole hurdle for important educational decisions: Standard 13.7 states: “In educational settings, a decision or characterization that will have a major impact on a student should not be made on the basis of a single test score.” No such injunction exists for employment decisions.


The document also has a greatly expanded discussion of testing students who have limited English proficiency, which includes some language that could be helpful in protecting those students from test misuse and abuse. For the first time, the Standards address the consequences of testing, recommending, for example, documentation of purported benefits or particular outcomes, such as improved instruction. If unintended consequences result, test makers and users should determine whether the problem resides in the test.


Chapter 14, on employment and credentialing testing, fails to reference important legal materials or to address disparate impact or harmful consequences. Chapter 8, on test-taker rights, provides little real protection for test-takers.


A glaring, ongoing weakness is that the Standards lack enforcement mechanisms. Thus, test-makers will continue to sell their products to institutions which violate the Standards, for example by imposing arbitrary cut-off scores for promotion or graduation. And “snake oil” manufacturers can still promote exams that lack any evidence of validity.


Not surprisingly, the sponsoring organizations maintain, “Educational and psychological testing and assessment are among the most important contributions of behavioral science to our society.” Test critics have alleged that the importance resides more in the damage than in the benefits. To date, the Standards have been helpful in stopping some of the worst test misuses, but many more destructive consequences remain, despite or perhaps partly because of the Standards.


Available from AERA, for $31.95, 1230 17th St. NW, Washington, DC 20036 or