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Oscar Krisen Buros (1905–1978)

tests measurements mental testing

Founder of the Institute of Mental Measurements, Oscar Krisen Buros produced the first major source of evaluative information on tests and test products. Born at Lake Nebagamon, Wisconsin, he was the fourth oldest of the nine children of Herman and Tone (Tillie) Buros (both immigrants to the United States from Norway). In 1925 he graduated with a B.S. with distinction from the University of Minnesota (Educational Administration and Supervision). He received his M.A. from Teachers College, Columbia University, in 1928. He was a professor of education at Rutgers University from 1929 through 1965. During his tenure at Rutgers University he taught courses in testing and statistical methods in the Department of Educational Psychology.

When he retired from Rutgers University in 1965 he held the title of professor of education and director of the Institute of Mental Measurements. During his career, he was active in several important projects and programs in the field of educational measurement, including the Eight-Year Study, Educational Testing Service Invitational Conference on Testing Problems, and the beginnings of the testing program for the military, where he served as academic examinations officer from 1942 to 1945. He also served as an educational consultant in Africa. From 1956 to 1957 he was a Senior Fulbright Lecturer in Statistics at Makere College, Kampala, Uganda. Then in 1965 to 1967 he held the position of visiting professor at the University College of the University of East Africa, Nairobi, Kenya.

The creation of the Institute of Mental Measurements was Buros's primary contribution to education. Under the auspices of the Institute of Mental Measurements, Buros published, beginning in 1938, critical reviews of commercially available tests. Concerned about the proliferation of tests, and the unsubstantiated claims by their developers about the potential uses of tests in education, psychology, and business, Buros initiated a movement to examine the testing industry and its products. These reviews were published in a series created by Buros called the Mental Measurements Yearbook (MMY). The 1938 yearbook contained reviews of more than 200 tests; over the years, multiple yearbooks have been published (the Fourteenth Mental Measurements Yearbook contains reviews of more than 400 tests). Each yearbook limits its scope to only new or revised, commercially available tests.

Over the history of the Mental Measurements Yearbook series, more than 6,300 tests have been reviewed. These reviews provide essential information to test users about the strengths and weaknesses of testing products, aiding in informed consumer decisions about test products. Buros published a total of eight Mental Measurements Yearbooks during his lifetime. In addition, a new series, called Tests in Print, was started in 1961. Because each Mental Measurements Yearbook only evaluated new and revised commercially available tests, Buros realized that a volume that provided an inventory of all in-print commercially available tests would be useful to test consumers as it would provide a starting place for examining the quality of test products.

In addition, Tests in Print identified which yearbook contained the relevant test reviews. Therefore, a consumer could first refer to the most recent volume in the Tests in Print series (Tests in Print V was published in 1999) to identify possible tests for their use and then refer to the relevant test reviews in the Mental Measurements Yearbook series to gain additional insights into the appropriateness of these tests for their use. The Institute of Mental Measurements started another series in the mid-1960s that collected test reviews by content category, such as personality or reading. Several of these volumes were published by the Institute of Mental Measurements.

Buros received many recognitions and awards for his work in educational testing. These include an award from the Psychometric Society in 1953 for his twenty years of service to users of psychometric techniques; a citation from the American Educational Research Association and the American Psychological Association, also in 1953, for his contributions to measurement; the Educational Testing Services Award for Distinguished Service (1973); and in 1980 a posthumous tribute from the American Educational Research Association and the National Council on Measurement in Education for his high principles of quality and integrity represented in his work and in his life.

A biographical entry of Buros would not be complete without mention of the contributions of his devoted wife, Luella Gubrud Buros. Upon their marriage in 1925, she abandoned a promising career as an artist to become her husband's partner in his crusade to provide candidly critical information about tests and test products. The Institute of Mental Measurements was always strapped for financial resources, and so Luella Buros provided support as typist, administrative assistant, and advertisement consultation; plus, borrowing from her artistic talent, she added an element of elegance to the products through her aesthetic sense of style and design. Upon the death of her husband in 1978, Luella Buros continued her personal and financial support of the Buros Institute of Mental Measurements as the work of Oscar Buros was transferred to the University of Nebraska–Lincoln. In 1994 the Oscar and Luella Buros Center for Testing broadened its focus to finally achieve Buros's dream of extending the critical evaluations of tests beyond commercially available instruments.

See also: TESTING.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

BUROS, OSCAR KRISEN. 1938. The Nineteen Thirty Eight Mental Measurements Yearbook. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press.

BUROS, OSCAR KRISEN. 1961. Tests in Print: A Comprehensive Bibliography of Tests In Use In Education, Psychology, and Industry. Highland Park, NJ: Gryphon Press.

PLAKE, BARBARA S.; CONOLEY, JANE C.; KRAMER, JACK J.; and MURPHY, LINDA U. 1991. "The Buros Institute of Mental Measurements: Commitment to the Tradition of Excellence." Journal of Counseling and Development 69:449–455.

PLAKE, BARBARA S., and IMPARA, JAMES C., eds. 2001. The Fourteenth Mental Measurements Yearbook. Lincoln, NE: Buros Institute of Mental Measurements.

BARBARA S. PLAKE

LINDA L. MURPHY

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