Identifying Content for Student Achievement Tests

Authored by: Norman L. Webb

Handbook of Test Development

Print publication date:  January  2006
Online publication date:  April  2011

Print ISBN: 9780805852646
eBook ISBN: 9780203874776
Adobe ISBN: 9781135283384


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Content specification is a conceptual framework that delineates the targeted content domain for a student achievement test. This framework is an important part of the more encompassing test specifications that include item format, distribution of items among reporting categories, scoring rubrics, psychometric properties, and other test characteristics. Clear content specifications are necessary because of the number of limitations imposed on any student achievement test, such as the amount of testing time available and the costs of developing good test items. It is critical that test developers who are interpreting expectations for student learning be aware of learning theories, the beginning point for writing clear content specifications. Four alignment criteria can help frame the content for a test. These criteria provide guidelines for (1) the content topics to be included on a test, (2) the complexity of the test items, (3) the range of content to be covered, and (4) the degree of emphasis to be given to specific content expectations. In addition, other factors that should be considered include equity, fairness, content integrity, level of precision, and the nature of the assessment. The chapter concludes with a description and examples of information that could be included in test specifications in addition to content specifications.

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