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Event Details: Testing Then and Now - Building on a Legacy in Educational Measurement, Assessment and Evaluation

Description: Conference Theme

Discussions on educational testing can become heated in both academic and public circles today. But, how many remember the  historical rationales, conceptualizations, and drivers of the educational testing movement in its early days, framed around the core  teaching and learning goals of schools and traceable to Teachers College (TC), Columbia University in the 1900s? As a part of TC’s 125th anniversary, the conference, Testing Then and Now will examine the history and the future of educational measurement, assessment and evaluation at home and abroad, searching for deeper understandings of contemporary issues as a means to pave the way forward.

Session Themes

The conference will have three sessions.

Session I- Testing, Assessment and the Scientific Movement in Education: From the Thorndikes to the Present

Session I will honor and critically explore historic contributions of leading scholars from TC—such as, Edward L. Thorndike and his son, Robert L. Thorndike—along with major thinkers from in and outside TC who shaped the science and field of educational measurement as it evolved over time into a worldwide testing and evaluation industry. It will remember TC’s early presence in international assessment programs through the involvement of Robert L. Thorndike, Harry Passow, Richard Wolf and other faculty, touching on the place and value of such programs today. It will shed light on contemporary issues and associated policies in testing, evaluation and accountability influencing public education and its stakeholders in the United States (U.S), including students, school leaders, teachers, and the public.

Session II – The Gordon Commission’s Perspectives: Moving towards Assessment for Learning

Session II will present the thinking and recommendations of the Gordon Commission on the future of assessment in education, led by Professor Edmund W. Gordon and other members of the Commission. This session will argue for a broader conceptualization of assessment to foster student learning and better teaching, highlighting a vision for technology-based assessment models. It will critique the best of current assessment models and anticipate future needs and goals in the service of educational excellence and equity by the mid-21st century. The Commission’s session is intended to involve wide public participation with complete transparency. Highlights of the Commission’s recently released reports will be presented.

Session III - Backlash against Testing

Session III will focus in on the contemporary backlash against testing in the U.S., considering its various roots and projecting its possible consequences. Opposition to high stakes testing has emerged in a number of different forms rooted in different constituencies today. Some of the early opposition—the so-called “Scarsdale Revolt”—involved affluent parents upset about diversion from what they considered to be richer educational exercises and a perceived focus on memorization over creativity Another source has come from teachers and parents in schools that began being marked as “failures’ by virtue of not meeting adequate yearly progress (AYP) targets under NCLB. Educators more generally have complained that the focus on narrowly gauged standardized tests has conflicted with their professional judgment about what constitutes good schooling. All of this is further complicated by recent high profile cases of educator cheating and test company errors.


Type: Conferences & Seminars

Location: Teachers College, Columbia University

Date & Time: 12/9/2013, 8:00 AM - 6:00 PM



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