Providing an association and continuing education awareness for individuals with an interest in college-level administration of educational and psychological measurement services.
General Description, Membership, and Purpose
The Measurement Services Special Interest Group of the American Educational Research Association (AERA) is the successor of the Measurement Services Association. The original organization met annually for many years under the sponsorship of the National Council on Measurement in Education (NCME). A majority of the members are associated with measurement offices at colleges and universities, but all persons concerned with the provision of measurement services are invited to join. You may join the Measurement Services SIG at any time or with the renewal of your AERA membership. Go to the AERA homepage, click on the Membership link, and then follow the directions. All membership payments are made directly to AERA. The purposes of the group, as stated in its bylaws, are to:
Functions, Benefits, and Characteristics of an Exemplary Measurement Service
What a measurement service provides
A college or university measurement service often features the use of an optical mark reader, sometimes referred to as an optical scanner. The most widespread but not the only use of a scanner is for processing multiple-choice tests. Students answer the test questions on specially printed answer sheets by marking out circles or ovals corresponding to the options for each question. The scanner transmits an image of each sheet to a computer for score computation and recording. This brief description belies the complexity of what is accomplished by a typical professionally directed measurement service. Beyond producing test scores (really only a clerical convenience), a fully developed measurement office provides additional services, such as:
Resources required for a measurement service
Many years ago, optical scanners were very expensive and demanding to maintain and operate. Now scanners for relatively low-volume operations may cost less than $5000, and stand alone computer support may cost less than that amount. Hardware for high-volume operations costs much less than before. The human resources required for provision of exemplary measurement services are considerably more important than the exact nature of the hardware configuration adopted. Two complementary areas of professional expertise should be directed toward development and maintenance of measurement services at all times. First and foremost of these is the statistical/behavioral science of educational and psychological measurement. Practitioners in this relatively little known area usually hold doctorates from departments of psychology or education with specialization in measurement. The other area of expertise required is computer programming and systems analysis. Sometimes a single individual may be proficient in both areas, but many full-service measurement offices have at least two professionals, one representing each area. In addition, clerical and administrative help consistent with the volume of work is required.
Why not just have a scanner and a technician who runs programs that analyze the output?
In an educational world that never seems to have enough resources, one is tempted to surmise that the services described above could be provided adequately without very intensive professional supervision. This notion is not correct. A good measurement service must constantly change to meet the needs of the particular institution where it is housed. Only under the direct charge of professionals competent to interpret and meet those needs will a service develop and grow. A good measurement service will be seen as an advocate for enhancing various aspects of the educational process. Testing is an integral part of instruction. Good testing practices go hand-in-hand with good instruction and serve to enhance learning as they confirm the quality of that instruction. All too often, large classes with evaluation based mainly on multiple-choice testing are viewed negatively from an educational standpoint. Actually, these classes may be the best way to deliver some types of instruction, especially lecturing. Then, an outstanding lecturer may be made available to all students. At the same time, multiple-choice tests are likely to be the best way to test learning of the wide range of material that is typically covered in such classes. Measurement services make it possible for large classes to function at a high level of effectiveness, providing not only accurate measures of achievement but detailed feedback to the instructor. A good measurement office encourages the use of its services. In contrast, when services are offered by groups with other primary interests--computing centers, for example--the burden of handling numerous "small" jobs may result in poor service, negative attitudes toward clients, and a general decline in use. Nor do organizations not dedicated to the science of educational measurement tend to serve well in the role of advocates for good measurement practice.