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Accuracy vs. validity, consistency vs. reliability, and fairness vs. absence of bias: A call for quality.

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W. Steve Lang

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The National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE, 2002) requires teacher education units to develop assessment systems and evaluate both the success of candidates and unit operations. Because of a stated, but misguided, fear of statistics, NCATE fails to use accepted terminology to assure the quality of institutional evaluative decisions with regard to the relevant standard (#2). Instead of “validity” and ”reliability,” NCATE substitutes “accuracy” and “consistency.” NCATE uses the accepted terms of “fairness” and “avoidance of bias” but confuses them with each other and with validity and reliability. It is not surprising, therefore, that this Standard is the most problematic standard in accreditation decisions. This paper seeks to clarify the terms, using scholarly work and measurement standards as a basis for differentiating and explaining the terms. The paper also provides examples to demonstrate how units can seek evidence of validity, reliability, and fairness with either statistical or non-statistical methodologies, disproving the NCATE assertion that statistical methods provide the only sources of evidence. The lack of adherence to professional assessment standards and the knowledge base of the educational profession in both the rubric and web-based resource materials for this standard are discussed. From a policy perspective, such lack of clarity, incorrect use of terminology, and general misunderstanding of high quality assessment must lead to confused decision making at both the institutional and agency levels. This paper advocates for a return to the use of scholarship and standards in revising accreditation policy to end the confusion.


Abstract only. Paper Presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Association of Colleges of Teacher Education (AACTE), New Orleans, LA. February 2008.




American Association of Colleges of Teacher Education (AACTE)

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