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Making the cut: A qualitative inquiry into the setting of cut scores on school district assessments

Gerald T Giraud, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


This study examines the cut score setting process in two public school districts, with a particular focus on the Angoff (1971) method for determining cut scores and the teachers who served as expert judges in the process. The purpose of the study was to explore the experiences of teachers who participated in the cut score setting processes, and also to explore the interactions between teachers and professional consultants who directed the process, and also the interaction between teachers, consultants, and district administrators. Knowing more about how the process is experienced by participants will be of value to practitioners and policy makers as they determine and interpret cut scores. ^ Workshops, at which teachers were directed in making estimates of the performance of the Barely Master Student, were observed, and teachers were interviewed immediately following the workshops. Interview and observational data was analyzed using phenomenological and case study methods. ^ A major finding was the willingness of teachers to put aside their own views of acceptable student performance and to conform to the needs and expectations of the school district, and the influence of political and economic concerns on teachers' thinking about cut scores. ^ Recommendations include: including a teacher generated definition of the Barely Master Student in reports of the results of cut score setting processes, and being deliberate in deciding on the definitions used during the training portion of the cut score workshops. ^ A model of the cut score setting process derived from the findings of this study is presented, along with suggestions for future research. Further research might include examining quantitatively parts of the presented model, for example examining the impact of teachers' political awareness on teacher judgments. ^

Subject Area

Education, Tests and Measurements|Education, Educational Psychology

Recommended Citation

Giraud, Gerald T, "Making the cut: A qualitative inquiry into the setting of cut scores on school district assessments" (1999). ETD collection for University of Nebraska - Lincoln. AAI9942122.