University of Rochester

Debate on Standardized Testing is Focus of Education Conference

September 4, 1996

Are standardized tests the best way to measure student performance, or are alternative methods better? If both have a place, how can school officials make the best use of these tools for gauging strengths, weaknesses, and mastery?

Educators can hear informed points of view on these questions at a one-day conference on educational assessment from 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 5, in Hubbell Auditorium, Hutchison Hall, at the University of Rochester. The conference is hosted by the University's Margaret Warner Graduate School of Education and Human Development.

This year's conference is the sixth to have explored better ways to track student performance. Featured keynote presenters are Monty Neill and W. James Popham, both leading authorities on assessment methods. In a point-counterpoint format, Popham and Neill will discuss the merits of standardized testing as opposed to alternative, performance-based methods of student assessment. Small group presentations given by area educators will follow the main discussion.

Arguing for the viability of alternative assessment methods will be Neill, well known nationally for his work with the Center for Fair and Open Testing in Cambridge, Mass., of which he is associate director. Neill is also the founder and co-chair of the National Forum on Assessment, and co-author of Fallout From the Testing Explosion: How 100 Million Standardized Exams Undermine Equity and Excellence in America's Public Schools.

Popham will state the case for retaining standardized tests as the primary method of assessment. Though performance-based testing can have merit, Popham believes, they cannot replace standardized testing, which allows a more scientific, statistical validation of student performance. Popham, well-known for his work in measurement and research, is a professor emeritus at the UCLA Graduate School of Education and the former vice president of the American Educational Research Association's Measurement & Research Methodology division.

To register or obtain more information about the conference, call the Warner School's Office of Professional Development, (585) 275-7833.