Code of Fair Testing Practices in Education
Description: Text of the Code of Fair Testing Practices in Education, prepared
by the Joint Committee on Testing Practices
The Code of Fair Testing Practices in Education states the major obligations to
test takers of professionals who develop or use educational tests. The Code is
meant to apply broadly to the use of tests in Education (admissions, educational
assessment, educational diagnosis, and student placement). The Code is not
designed to cover employment testing, licensure or certification testing, or
other types of testing. Although the Code has relevance to many types of
educational tests, it is directed primarily at professionally developed tests
such as those sold by commercial test publishers or used in formally
administered testing programs. The Code is not intended to cover tests made by
individual teachers for use in their own classrooms.
The Code addresses the roles of test developers and test users separately.
Test users are people who select tests, commission test developmental services,
or make decisions on the basis of test scores. Test developers are people who
actually construct tests as well as those who set policies for particular
testing programs. The roles may, of course, overlap as when a state education
agency commissions test development services, sets policies that control the
test development process, and makes decisions on the basis of test scores.
The Code presents standards for educational test developers and users in four
- Developing/Selecting Tests
- Interpreting Scores
- Striving for Fairness
- Informing Test Takers
Organizations, institutions, and the
individual professional who endorse the Code commit themselves to safeguarding
the rights of the test takers by following the principles listed. The Code is
intended to be consistent with the relevant parts of the Standards for
Educational and Psychological Testing (AERA, APA, NCME, 1985). However, the Code
differs from the Standards in both audience and purpose. The Code is meant to be
understood by the general public; it is limited to educational tests; and the
primary focus is on those issues that affect the proper use of tests. The Code
is not meant to add principles over and above those in the Standards or to
change the meaning of the Standards. The goal is rather to represent the spirit
of a selected portion of the Standards in a way that is meaningful to test
takers and/or their parents or guardians. It is the hope of the Joint Committee
that the Code will also be judged to be consistent with existing codes of
conduct and standards of other professional groups who use educational tests.
A. Developing/Selecting Appropriate Tests
Test developers should
provide the information that test users need to select appropriate tests. Test
- Define what each test measures and what the test should be used for.
- Describe the population(s) for which the test is appropriate.
- Accurately represent the characteristics, usefulness, and limitations of
tests for their intended purposes.
- Explain relevant measurement concepts as necessary for clarity at the
level of detail that is appropriate for the intended audience(s).
- Describe the process of test development.
- Explain how the content and skills to be tested were selected.
- Provide evidence that the test meets its intended purposes(s).
- Provide either representative samples or complete copies of test
questions, directions, answer sheets, manuals, and score reports to qualified
- Indicate the nature of the evidence obtained concerning the
appropriateness of each test for groups of different racial, ethnic, or
linguistic backgrounds who are likely to be tested.
- Identify and publish any specialized skills needed to administer each test
and to interpret scores correctly.
Test users should select tests that
meet the purpose for which they are to be used and that are appropriate for the
intended test- taking populations. Test Users Should:
- First define the purpose for testing and the population to be tested.
Then, select a test for that purpose and that population based on a thorough
review of the available information.
- Investigate potentially useful sources of information, in addition to test
scores, to corroborate the information provided by tests.
- Read the materials provided by test developers and avoid using tests for
which unclear or incomplete information is provided.
- Become familiar with how and when the test was developed and tried out.
- Read independent evaluations of a test and of possible alternative
measures. Look for evidence required to support the claims of test developers.
- Examine specimen sets, disclosed tests or samples of questions,
directions, answer sheets, manuals, and score reports before selecting a test.
- Ascertain whether the test content and norms group(s) or comparison
group(s) are appropriate for the intended test takers.Select and use only
those tests for which the skills needed to administer the test and interpret
scores correctly are available.
B. Interpreting Scores
Test developers should help users interpret
scores correctly. Test Developers Should:
- Provide timely and easily understood score reports that describe test
performance clearly and accurately. Also explain the meaning and limitations
of reported scores.
- Describe the population(s) represented by any norms or comparison
group(s), the dates the data were gathered, and the process used to select the
samples of test takers.
- Warn users to avoid specific, reasonably anticipated misuses of test
- Provide information that will help users follow reasonable procedures for
setting passing scores when it is appropriate to use such scores with the
- Provide information that will help users gather evidence to show that the
test is meeting its intended purpose(s).
Test users should interpret
scores correctly. Test Users Should:
- Obtain information about the scale used for reporting scores, the
characteristics of any norms or comparison group(s), and the limitations of
- Interpret scores taking into account any major differences between the
norms or comparison groups and the actual test takers.
- Also take into account any differences in test administration practices or
familiarity with the specific questions in the test.
- Avoid using tests for purposes not specifically recommended by the test
developer unless evidence is obtained to support the intended use.
- Explain how any passing scores were set and gather evidence to support the
appropriateness of the scores.
- Obtain evidence to help show that the test is meeting its intended
C. Striving for Fairness
Test developers should strive to make tests
that are as fair as possible for test takers of different races, gender, ethnic
backgrounds, or handicapping conditions. Test Developers Should:
- Review and revise test questions and related materials to avoid
potentially insensitive content or language.
- Investigate the performance of test takers of different races, gender, and
ethnic backgrounds when sample of sufficient size are available.
- Enact procedures that help to ensure that differences in performance are
related primarily to the skills under assessment rather than to irrelevant
- When feasible, make appropriately modified forms of tests or
administration procedures available for test takers with handicapping
conditions. Warn test users of potential problems in using standard norms with
modified tests or administration procedures that result in noncomparable
Test users should select tests that have been developed in
ways that attempt to make them as fair as possible for test takers of different
races, gender, ethnic backgrounds, or handicapping conditions. Test Users
- Evaluate the procedures used by test developers to avoid potentially
insensitive content or language.
- Review the performance of test takers of different races, gender, and
ethnic backgrounds when samples of sufficient size are available.
- Evaluate the extent to which performance differences may have been caused
by inappropriate characteristics of the test.
- When necessary and feasible, use appropriately modified forms of tests or
administration procedures for test takers with handicapping conditions.
Interpret standard norms with care in the light of the modifications that were
D. Informing Test Takers
Under some circumstances, test developers have
direct communication with test takers. Under other circumstances, test users
communicate directly with test takers. Whichever group communicates directly
with test takers should provide the information described below. Test Developers
or Test Users Should:
- When a test is optional, provide test takers or their parents/guardians
with information to help them judge whether the test should be taken, or if an
available alternative to the test should be used.
- Provide test takers the information they need to be familiar with the
coverage of the test, the types of question formats, the directions, and the
appropriate test-taking strategies. Strive to make such information equally
available to all test takers.
Under some circumstances, test
developers have direct control of tests and test scores. Under other
circumstances, test users have such control. Whichever group has direct control
of tests and test scores should take the steps described below.
- Provide test takers or their parents/guardians with information about
rights test takers may have to obtain copies of tests and completed answer
sheets, retake tests, have tests rescored, or cancel scores.
- Tell test takers or their parents/guardians how long scores will be kept
on file and indicate to whom and under what circumstances test scores will or
will not be released.
- Describe the procedures that test takers or their parents/guardians may
use to register complaints and have problems resolved.
The Code has
been developed by the Joint Committee on Testing Practices, a cooperative effort
of several professional organizations, that has as its aim the advancement, in
the public interest, of the quality of testing practices. The Joint Committee
was initiated by the American Educational Research Association, the American
Psychological Association, and the National Council on Measurement in Education.
In addition to these three groups, the American Association for Counseling and
Development/Association for Measurement and Evaluation in Counseling and
Development, and the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association are now also
sponsors of the Joint Committee.
This is not copyrighted material. Reproduction and dissemination are
encouraged. Please cite this document as follows:
Code of Fair Testing Practices in Education. (1988). Washington, DC. Joint
Committee on Testing Practices. (Mailing Address: Joint Committee on Testing
Practices, American Psychological Association, 750 First Avenue, NE, Washington,
Note: The membership of the working group that developed the Code of Fair
Testing Practices in Education and of the Joint Committee on Testing Practices
that guided the Working Group was as follows:
- Theodore P. Bartell
- John R. Bergan
- Esther E. Diamond
- Richard P. Duran
- Lorraine D. Eyde
- Raymond D. Fowler
- John J. Fremer (Co-chair, JCTP and Chair, Code Working Group)
- Edmund W. Gordon
- Jo-Ida C. Hansen
- James B. Lingwall
- George F. Madaus (Co-chair, JCTP)
- Kevin L. Moreland
- Jo-Ellen V. Perez
- Robert J. Solomon
- John T. Stewart
- Carol Kehr Tittle (Co-chair, JCTP)
- Nicholas A. Vacc
- Michael J. Zieky
- Debra Boltas and Wayne Camara of the American Psychological Association
served as staff liaisons.