Improving Testing

Improving Testing: Applying Process Tools and Techniques to Assure Quality

This important book demonstrates how tried and proven tools used to achieve process quality in manufacturing and service organizations can be applied to the testing industry.

These tools and methods have been part of standard operations in a variety of industries for the past 20 years, yet transfer of knowledge to testing has been slow. Test sponsors, developers, and vendors view themselves as being more aligned to education, research and development organizations rather than to the manufacturing and service industries.

In this book, best practice organizations in the testing community have contributed chapters and examples to illustrate their use of process-oriented tools and methodology to improve quality.

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Sponsors of test programs are often not-for-profit organizations or governmental organizations that have been less Improving Testingdemanding of supplier quality than have sponsors of commercial products and services. However, as competition has increased and customer tolerance for mistakes has diminished, leading organizations in the testing field have come to realize that process improvement methods are critical to the ongoing success of their business. A few have begun to adopt these methods to improve the quality of their processes.

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The purpose behind this book is to educate testing organizations (whether vendors, sponsors, or users of tests) about these tools and to encourage them to adapt and adopt these tools to significantly increase the satisfaction of all stakeholders with testing products and services.

The need for a systematic and in-depth approach to improving testing process is great. Educational testing in the United States has more than doubled as a result of the No Child Left Behind legislation. Internationally, certification testing is booming. More and more, organizations are using testing for hiring as a supplement to traditional interviews, recommendations and resumes. Along with the increased testing, and maybe because of it, has come a plethora of news stories of problems with testing.

Such stories tend to impugn the entire testing industry. News about a scoring issue by one contractor for one test casts a dark shadow on testing in general, however unfair that may be to testing programs that operate according to high standards and well-considered procedures. Of course, some negative publicity comes from small problems blown out of proportion by those who don’t believe in testing and wish it would go away. But many articles sound justified alarms about incorrectly scanned answer sheets, essay tests scored according to inconsistent criteria, lost answer sheets, misapplied answer keys, poorly trained test administrators, late test books, test books with errors in them, test score reports, entire item banks from testing programs for sale on the web – the list goes on and on.

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Clearly, any of these errors can have sobering consequences to test takers – artificially low scores may prevent students from graduating from high school, prevent students from being accepted by or even applying to the college of their choice, or prevent adults from working at the job of their choice because of a denied or delayed certification or licensure.

The need to improve testing is thus recognized by most of the testing community. However, the typical response of the testing community to this need has been to develop new standards related to the testing product, e.g., developing standards for computer-based testing or for adapting tests to different cultures or translation of tests.

Although these psychometric, product-related concerns are necessary, they are not sufficient to address the procedural concerns that allow a test to be scanned improperly or any of the other mundane mishaps that can cause glitches in the results of testing.

Improving Testing is the first book on the testing market that focuses on the use of business process tools to improve the quality and the validity of tests.

Although there are hundreds of books about quality tools, most use examples from manufacturing and more recently from service industries. The testing arena has received little if any attention in the quality field. What makes this book unique is that the authors have all worked with testing in some way – for testing companies, sponsor organizations, universities, or as consultants or service providers to the testing industry.

The chapters provide examples and case studies of how various process tools have been applied to the testing industry. Readers from the measurement community should more readily understand the applications of quality to testing from these examples than from examples from manufacturing and service.

This book is intended for both academics and practitioners in the fields of education, certification, personnel testing, and process improvement. Those interested in how the public and sponsoring agencies can encourage the vendors to improve quality may also be interested in Improving Testing. The book also presents an international perspective, especially in the section on standards.

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