SETDA Urges NAGB To Reconsider Tech Literacy Test

How does your education system define technological literacy? Chances are, whatever the definition, it doesn't align with what the National Assessment Governing Board (NAGB) is proposing as it develops a nationwide test for technological literacy among students. And that's going to cause serious problems, according to the State Educational Technology Directors Association (SETDA), which is now publicly urging the group to reconsider its position.

At issue is a framework being developed by NAGB staff as part of the NAEP Technological Literacy Assessment, which is currently expected to be administered for the first time in 2012. To date, as has there has been no national standard for technological literacy, states have adopted their own definitions, generally based on definitions and standards developed by the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) or SETDA. They're using these definitions to fulfill the NCLB mandate to report "the percentage of students who meet state technology standards by the end of the eighth grade."

However, now NAGB, which sets policy for NAEP (the National Assessment of Educational Progress, commonly known as "the Nation's Report Card"), has developed its own definition--one that, according to SETDA, does not align with established practice.

In NAGB's current framework, the definition includes three key topics: "In recent decades the meaning of technological literacy has taken on three quite different (though by no means inconsistent) forms in the United States. These are the science, technology, and society approach; the technology education approach; and the information and communications technology approach. In recognition of the importance, educational value, and interdependence of these three approaches, this framework includes all three under its broad definition of technological literacy, and in recognition of the distinct goals and teaching methods involved in each, this framework recommends that assessment results be reported for each of the separate areas in order to make it possible to monitor and analyze the results of each approach over time."

But according to SETDA, should the definition in its current form be utilized in a national assessment of technological literacy, it's going to wreak havoc on schools, causing confusion and potentially impacting student outcomes and school funding.

In a letter sent to NAGB Executive Director Cornelia Orr--a letter made public today--the SETDA board of directors expressed this concern. According to the letter: "If the three key areas of the proposed NAEP assessment are reported as one score, the national benchmark or probe will not have any relevance to the states' adopted definitions of technological literacy or reported results. This will cause unnecessary confusion across states and by federal policy-makers when a standard definition is already in place nationwide gets replaced by a definition that has never been used."

Further, according to the organization: "SETDA is extremely concerned that defining technological literacy in a very different way than it has been defined, assessed, and reported on by the states for up to seven years could lead to confusion and misinterpreted results with detrimental effects for policy, funding, and educational outcomes. The draft definition and framework are inconsistent with the current definitions used by states in response to the requirement in federal law to report on state definitions of Technological Literacy (per NCLB Title II, Part D and ARRA)...."

As part of its proposed solution, SETDA suggested:

  1. Dividing up the assessment into the three sections measured and only reporting on the sections "separately so that they do not conflict with federal laws or state or national efforts, allowing each separate component to be used to provide data for the different purposes and audiences" and using specific terminology "to define what is being assessed"; and
  2. Renaming the assessment "so that it clearly identifies the areas that will be tested on the exam and establishes a new name for the expanded definition, i.e. Technology and Engineering or Technology and Innovation."

A full copy of the current discussion draft of the NAEP Technological Literacy Framework can be accessed here. NAGB is also accepting comments on the discussion draft. A feedback survey can be found here.

About the Author

David Nagel is the former editorial director of 1105 Media's Education Group and editor-in-chief of THE Journal, STEAM Universe, and Spaces4Learning. A 30-year publishing veteran, Nagel has led or contributed to dozens of technology, art, marketing, media, and business publications.

He can be reached at [email protected]. You can also connect with him on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/davidrnagel/ .