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International Standards Of Test Development

Standardized tests are used in important ways at all levels of education, and such tests can help educators and policymakers make important decisions about students, teachers, programs, and institutions. It is therefore critical that these tests, and the information that they provide, meet the highest professional and technical standards. Fortunately, the experts who set policies for testing programs, who design and develop tests, and who make use of the scores and other reports adhere to a number of rigorous and publicly available standards, three of which merit a brief summary.

Code of Fair Testing Practices in Education

The Code of Fair Testing Practices in Education (the Code) is one of the most widely distributed and referenced documents in educational testing. It contains standards related to the development, selection, and reporting of results of assessments in education. Written in nontechnical language, it provides test-takers, parents, teachers, and others with clear statements of what they are entitled to receive from those who develop tests, as well as from those who use test scores to help make decisions.

The Code has been endorsed by the leading testing organizations in the United States, including the major nonprofit companies (e.g., the College Board, the Educational Testing Service, ACT Inc.) and the large commercial test publishers (e.g., the California Test Bureau, Harcourt Educational Measurement, Riverside Publishing) who account for a large share of all school district and state-level tests. The Code has also been endorsed by major professional organizations in the field of education, whose members make extensive use of tests, including the American Counseling Association, the American Educational Research Association, the American Psychological Association, the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, the National Association of School Psychologists, and the National Association of Test Directors.

As a result of the widespread acceptance of the Code, users of standardized educational tests that are developed by major testing companies can be confident that conscientious efforts have been made to produce tests that yield fair and accurate results when used as intended by the test makers.

Standards for Educational and Psychological Testing

The basic reference source for technical standards in educational testing is Standards for Educational and Psychological Testing (the Standards). Since 1950, this document has been prepared in a series of editions by three organizations, the American Educational Research Association (AERA), the American Psychological Association (APA), and the National Council on Measurement in Education (NCME). It is a resource that is very useful for individuals with training in psychometrics, but is not very readable by those without such specialized training. Any team involved in the development of a testing program needs to include at least one person with the expertise necessary to understand and assure adherence to the Standards.

ATP Guidelines for Computer-Based Testing

As useful as the AERA/APA/NCME Standards are as a resource for technical testing standards, they give relatively little attention to one of the most important trends in testing, the growth of computer-based testing. The Association of Test Publishers (ATP) has addressed this "standards vacuum" by creating the ATP Guidelines for Computer-Based Testing (the Guidelines). The ATP is the industry association for test publishing, with over 100 member companies, an active program of publishing, a highly regarded annual meeting focused on computer-based testing, and a set of productive divisions.

The Guidelines address six general areas related to technology-based test delivery systems:

  • Planning and Design
  • Test Development
  • Test Administration
  • Scoring and Score Reporting
  • Statistical/Psychometric Analyses
  • Communications to Test Takers and Others

The intent of the Guidelines is to define the "best practices" that are desirable for all testing systems, without reference to the particular hardware or operating system employed for testing. The fast growth of computer-based testing in education will make these Guidelines especially valuable to test makers and test users.


AMERICAN EDUCATIONAL RESEARCH ASSOCIATION; AMERICAN PSYCHOLOGICAL ASSOCIATION; and NATIONAL COUNCIL ON MEASUREMENT IN EDUCATION. 1999. Standards for Educational and Psychological Testing. Washington, DC: American Educational Research Association.

ASSOCIATION OF TEST PUBLISHERS. 2000. Guidelines for Computer-Based Testing. Washington, DC: Association of Test Publishers.

JOINT COMMITTEE ON TESTING PRACTICES. 1988. Code of Fair Testing Practices in Education. Washington, DC: Joint Committee on Testing Practices.


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