Feature Article

Message from the president

The 2017-18 president's focus: Psychological and educational measurement–Its distinguished past, its practical present and its uncertain future.

By Amy Schmidt, PhD

Amy Schmidt“Hello” to all members of Div. 5–Quantitative and Qualitative Methods–the division that draws together specialists in the area of evaluation, measurement, assessment and statistics. Please allow me to introduce myself. I'm Amy Schmidt, and I have the great honor and privilege to serve you this year as president of Div. 5. As an ETS employee for 11 years now, it's humbling to stand in the shoes of such former ETSers as Frederic Lord, Sam Messick, William Angoff and Larry Stricker, just to name a few. Currently, I'm one of two general managers in the statistical analysis area of ETS's research and development division, where I oversee all of the psychometric work for such tests as the GRE (General and Subject Tests), the TOEFL and TOIEC suite of products, the Advanced Placement and CLEP examinations and the SAT Subject Tests. Prior to obtaining my PhD in educational psychology from the graduate school of the City University of New York, I was an elementary school teacher, where I developed skills that serve me well in my role in directing and mentoring a staff of almost a hundred professionals. I've been actively involved in APA's Div. 5 for quite a few years, serving as secretary for three years (the role is now referred to as the coordinating officer & secretary), as member-at-large for three years, as program chair for the annual meeting for one year, and as historian for two years. I've also served as a member of APA's Committee on Psychological Testing and Assessment (CPTA) during the time when the most recent edition of the standards were going through its final reviews. I'm hoping that these experiences will help me as I embark on my new role as your president.

Following in the footsteps of our prior presidents, I've developed a theme for my presidential year, focused on psychological and educational measurement. As Bob Brennan points out in his introduction to the fourth edition of “Educational Measurement” (2006, p.14): “There are two clear trends in testing that show little likelihood of changing in the near future. First, our theoretical models are getting more and more sophisticated. Second, from a practical perspective, social issues are so influential in testing that the boundaries between the two are often blurred.” Certainly anyone who has attended a Div. 5 session at the Annual Convention over the last dozen years or so has witnessed increasing sophistication in the quantitative and qualitative methodologies used to address important questions. However, the essential questions - whether one is developing tools for research, developing tests for high-stakes use, or assessments to support clinical judgment - are still the same as they've been for decades, even if the way we think about them has evolved.

It's still important to ask:

  • What are the inferences that can be drawn from information obtained using our tests and assessments?
  • What evidence do we have to support these inferences?
  • Are the instruments we develop reliable?

No matter what kind of technology is used to develop, administer or score such tests and assessments, these age-old questions remain.

To Brennan's second point, we find ourselves at a time in history when our work has much more than academic and theoretical impact; much of the work of our members has the potential to impact local and national policy making. From the use of tests and assessments for accountability in schools to the kind of groundbreaking work that our qualitative colleagues are conducting on social justice programs, our work is having an influence that many of us could not have foreseen when we began our undergraduate or graduate studies.

So, following in the footsteps of past presidents Scott Hofer, who held such an event at the University of Victoria in March 2016, and Joe Rodgers, who followed in Scott's footsteps and held an event at Vanderbilt University in March 2017, the division will be offering a mini-conference at ETS in March of 2018 (in conjunction with the division's Midyear Advisory Committee Meeting) to explore the theme of “Psychological and Educational Measurement, Past, Present, and Future.” We hope to offer live streaming of the event as well as provide access to the talks after the conference is over. We expect to invite and pay for a few teaching scholars to come and present talks on this topic, which will focus on the issues I've discussed from both a quantitative and qualitative perspective. If you are interested in presenting such a talk, please email me.

Again, stealing shamelessly from Joe, we'll be continuing the theme at the 2018 APA Annual Convention in San Francisco. We'll have symposia, paper sessions and poster sessions devoted to the theme as well as hosting presentations on other topics of interest to the division, of course.

Another initiative that I'll be engaging in is establishing among the members of Div. 5 a kind of intellectual genealogy. As historian of Div. 5, I embarked on a project to develop short biographies of all past presidents, and I was struck by the relationships between them. For example, Harold Gulliksen (division president 1950) attended a visiting seminar given by L. L. Thurstone (division president 1946 and APA president 1933) when he was a graduate student at the Ohio State University and he received his PhD under Thurstone in 1931. Sam Messick (division president 1973) began a long association with Ledyard Tucker (division president 1961) at the University of Illinois. There are many of these kinds of gems in the biographies, and I'm hoping that you'll all take the time, when asked, to provide your associations with mentors and colleagues so that we can create a great web of influence to show off at the next Annual Convention.

Feel free to contact me with any concerns or questions you have about the division or if you'd like to volunteer your time. Until next time, I remain …