Standard Setting Issues and Methods

Publisher: Applied Psychological Measurement, 4
Page Numbers: 447-467

Previous methodological reviews and the controversy regarding the adequacy of standard-setting technology are summarized. The judgmental nature of all standard-setting methods is examined, and the debate about whether fallible standards are better than none is recast in the context of three different test uses: pupil diagnosis, pupil certification (for high school graduation or professional licensure), and program evaluation. Exemplary standard-setting methods are reviewed, representing the following major approaches: (1) judgments of test content; (2) judgments about mastery-nonmastery groups; (3) norms and passing rates; (4) empirical methods for discovering standards; and (5) empirical methods for adjusting cutoff scores, given a standard on an external criterion measure. Standards based on the performance of judged mastery groups (the Contrasting Groups method) and certain uses of normative data are likened to Known Groups validation. Recommendations are made for selecting standard-setting techniques depending on test use, including pupil diagnosis, pupil certification, and program evaluation. Future research on standard setting is discussed in the context of improving practical aspects of judgmental methods.