Position Papers

Bridging the Readiness Gap: Demystifying Required Reading Levels for Postsecondary Pursuits (117KB, PDF)

by Malbert Smith III, Ph.D., President, MetaMetrics, October 2010

Graduation from high school no longer guarantees that students are prepared for the postsecondary challenges that await them. This reality-combined with disheartening trends in graduation rates and an increasingly global economy-informs and underscores the current national educational reform agenda. The initiatives and programs comprising this movement have gained momentum. In January, President Obama announced an extension of the Race to the Top program, already the most ambitious reform effort in history. Further, the Common Core State Standards (grade‐by-grade standards for K-12 English and Mathematics) have been released and a growing number of states have adopted them.

A top priority of these initiatives is the adoption of internationally benchmarked standards. Why are consistent, measurable standards important?

Testimony on "Technology and Innovation in Assessment" at the U.S. Department of Education's Race to the Top Public Input meeting, November 13, 2009 in Boston (909KB, PDF)

by Todd Sandvik, Vice President of Corporate Development, MetaMetrics

As the United States moves toward a common core of academic standards, the U.S. Department of Education has asked educational experts and the public to help design a $350 million competition for the development of common assessments. DOE officials are holding a series of public input meetings to solicit testimony from testing experts, including researchers and technicians, as well as to hear from the general public. The DOE is seeking advice about the future of assessments, as well as the potential ways that educational measurement can feed back into instruction and achievement. This information will inform the department's grant competition that will provide economic stimulus monies to states to fund next-generation, common assessments.

Todd Sandvik represented MetaMetrics® at the Boston meeting on technology and innovation in assessment. His testimony explains how a unified approach to objective measurement will allow educational assessment to better support the needs of educators, students, and parents. Mr. Sandvik gives examples of how this approach serves various individual learning needs.

The U.S. Department of Education Race To The Top Assessment Program Web page contains information on the full slate of public meetings, including links to the full testimony at each.

Best Practices for Next-Generation Assessments (122KB, PDF)

by Malbert Smith, III, Ph.D., President, MetaMetrics, January 2010

On Dec. 10–11, 2009, the National Academies’ Board on Testing and Assessment (BOTA) held a two-day conference on “Best Practices for State Assessment Systems.” The conference’s overarching theme was the need to move beyond current assessment systems in favor of more innovative approaches and technologies. Interest in this topic is being fueled by a number of trends, including the Common Core Standards Initiative; RTTT funding; concerns about international benchmarking and assessments; college and career readiness; the belief that NCLB assessments have narrowed the curriculum; and U.S. Education Secretary Duncan’s statements that we can do better than the bubble sheet. The collective force of these trends and the new funds committed to “innovative assessments” has created a zeitgeist for change.

Education Reform: Making this the ‘Best of Times' (109KB, PDF)

by Malbert Smith, III, Ph.D., President, MetaMetrics, October 2009

When I read and hear about all of the activities associated with the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) and Race to the Top, my thoughts go back to my ninth grade reading assignment of Charles Dickens' "A Tale of Two Cities:" It was the best of times, it was the worst of times; it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness... we were all going directly to Heaven, we were all going the other way. With many of the issues before us today-including health care, immigration and education-there are those who believe our country is poised to enter a new and enlightened period. On the other hand, there are those who think our nation is on the edge of the precipice toward foolishness and despair. 

The Hippocratic Oath and Grade Equivalents (79KB, PDF) 

by Malbert Smith, III, Ph.D., President, MetaMetrics, July 2009

Medical researchers and practitioners often cite Hippocrates' famous adage, "Above all, do no harm." Implicit in this statement is that all actions are not helpful and, in fact, can be harmful. While we typically think of the Hippocratic Oath in terms of medical treatments, the principle also applies to the assessment of students' reading and mathematics abilities. For years, the educational measurement community has lamented the practice of reporting students' abilities as grade equivalents. And yet, some assessments continue to measure performance using these inaccurate and often misleading metrics.

The misconceptions of grade equivalents have been well documented by research organizations, most noting that the metrics create more confusion than clarity (AERA/APA/NCME, 1985; Airasian, 1994; Miller, Linn and Gronlund, 2009; Stiggins, 2009). In 1981, for example, the International Reading Association (IRA) crafted a resolution on the misuse of grade equivalents. In it, the organization "strongly advocates that those who administer standardized reading tests abandon the practice of using grade equivalents to report performance of either individuals or groups of test takers" (1981). In spite of the advice, counsel and warnings from IRA, as well as other leading organizations...

Why P-16/P-20 Educational Systems? (102KB, PDF)

by Malbert Smith, III, Ph.D., President, MetaMetrics, October 2008

In response to the challenges of preparing students to compete in a global marketplace, policy makers have started to conceptualize education more broadly than kindergarten through high school. As such, a "21st century" view that includes preschool through postsecondary education (P-16 or P-20), increasingly is becoming the norm...

The Reading-Writing Connection (90KB, PDF)

by Malbert Smith, III, Ph.D., President, MetaMetrics, March 2009

Reading Next (2004) and Writing Next (2007) have documented the importance of the reading-writing connection. Both reports affirm that students' reading and writing abilities are complimentary and growth in one skill inevitably leads to growth in the other (i.e., students become better readers by strengthening their writing skills and vice-versa). This point is further emphasized by author Francine Prose, who noted in her book, "Reading Like a Writer" (2006), that long before there were creative-writing workshops and degrees, aspiring writers learned to write by reading the work of their predecessors and contemporaries. "What writers know is that, ultimately, we learn to write by practice, hard work, by repeated trial and error, success and failure, and from the books we admire," she wrote1. Furthermore, MetaMetrics, Inc.'s research indicates that the correlation coefficient between reading and writing is...