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High -stakes testing: Truth or consequential validity

Mary L Zanetti, University of Massachusetts Amherst


This study consisted of a comprehensive review of the consequential aspects of validity of a grade 10 mathematics assessment. This test is part of a larger state-mandated assessment system in which the studied test is one of two assessments that a student must pass in order to graduate from high school in the state of Massachusetts. Validity evidence was collected using three rigorous measurement methods. Qualitative and quantitative procedures were used to ensure a more complete collection and analyses of validity evidence. A survey was developed and administered to all participating high school mathematics teachers and key education personnel. Fifty-six percent of the surveys were completed and analyzed. In addition, focus group and one-on-one interviews were conducted within each participating school district. The results indicated that the Massachusetts' education reform initiative had created significant changes in high school mathematics curriculum and instruction. In addition, many positive and negative intended and unintended consequences connected to this assessment system were identified. The results were discussed based on a classification system in which a representative sample of school districts was selected from the state population. In this study, a comprehensive analysis of a few specific consequential validity questions was addressed using sound quantitative and qualitative research methods. This type of research, examining the consequential aspects of validity of a state mandated test as a component of a larger assessment system, represents a huge undertaking. The social, politic, and educational implications involved in any reform effort are complex and difficult to document. As education reform affects more and more students across this nation, answers to the outlined questions may assist key administrators in the state of Massachusetts, perhaps even other states in the middle of similar reform efforts, in making important mid-course corrections, and/or merely provide needed validity evidence regarding intended and unintended consequences of the program using solid, data-driven information.

Subject Area

Psychological tests|Educational psychology|Mathematics education

Recommended Citation

Zanetti, Mary L, "High -stakes testing: Truth or consequential validity" (2003). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI3096322.