APA and OCR Discuss Sensitive Testing Issues

At a meeting in September, the American Educational Research Association (AERA) and the National Council on Measurement in Education (NCME) joined forces with APA to provide the Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights (OCR) important technical information on test score interpretation. Specifically, the group discussed the sensitive issue of flagging test scores when a nonstandard test administration has taken place, such as when accommodations have been provided for a disability in admissions testing. Following the 1974 Rehabilitation Act, OCR established an interim policy in 1979, allowing for flagging on college admissions tests. A permanent policy has yet to be adopted, even after the passage of the 1990 Americans With Disabilities Act.

In recent months, OCR has sought to craft a permanent policy. The interim policy allows for scores to be flagged, typically with an asterisk, indicating that the test administration deviated from standard procedures. Without additional information, test interpreters do not know if the asterisk means that an individual with a visual impairment was assisted by a reader or if the lights went out during the test administration, interrupting the entire group of test takers.

OCR had hoped that research would be conducted on this issue, providing an empirical basis for a policy. However, little work has been done that sheds light on interpreting test scores for nonstandard administrations, that equates standard administrations with nonstandard, or that measures the impact of a flagged score on one's chances of admission into college.

APA, AERA, and NCME testing experts attending the OCR meeting included Drs. Robert Brennan, Mark Davison, Bill Mehrens, Karen Mitchell, Marianne Nester, and Diana Pullin.

OCR plans to craft a policy on this issue in the near future. The office anticipates issuing a call for comments in the Federal Register when it is appropriate.

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