CONTACT: STEPHEN PRADARELLI
300 Plaza Centre One
Iowa City IA 52242
(319) 384-0007; fax (319) 384-0024
Release: March 27, 2002
UI's Qualls is featured in PBS documentary on school testing March 28
Qualls, an associate professor in the University of Iowa College of Education's
Iowa Testing Programs department, will be featured in a documentary "Testing
Our Schools," scheduled to air 9 p.m. local time Thursday, March 28 on
In the program, co-produced by FRONTLINE and PBS's The Merrow Report, correspondent
John Merrow will examine how the quest for higher scores on mandated school
tests is changing teaching and learning in America.
"The passage of President Bush's sweeping education reform bill --
which requires public school testing in grades three through eight -- signals
the beginning of a new era in public education, one marked by increased federal
involvement in schools and an unprecedented expansion in the role of tests,"
the producers say in their publicity for the documentary. "A business
school graduate and self-styled 'CEO President,' Bush envisions a business
model where educators set objectives, measure performance, and hold students
and teachers accountable for results. But will the business model work in
Qualls, a coauthor of the Iowa Test of Basic Skills and a specialist in
large-scale assessment, says producer John D. Tulenko interviewed her for
four hours last spring on the UI campus, asking a range of questions about
educational testing. An Iowa graduate and a faculty member at Iowa since 1990,
Qualls said she hasn't seen the documentary yet and doesn't know what portions
of the interview were used.
But a FRONTLINE new release (http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/press/2014i.html)
gives a preview of Qualls' interview in which she responds to a Bush administration
proposal that every student in grades three through eight be tested in reading
and math, with tests and passing grades to be decided by each state. The release
says the prospect of still more testing disturbs Qualls.
"It's an impossible task," Qualls is quoted as saying. "Bush's
plan actually allows the district or state to choose or design any assessment
of their choice. We do not have the capability [to produce] reliable, good
reports in a timely manner. The resources aren't there. To someone committed
to testing, it's a terrifying idea."
Shot on location in California, Massachusetts, Virginia, Arizona and Washington,
D.C., as well as Iowa, the documentary features some of the country's top
experts in education and educational testing, including current U.S. Secretary
of Education Rod Paige.
Tulenko said he decided to interview Qualls after coming across some of
her research a couple years ago while planning the documentary.
"Audrey was one of the first test writers to take a public stance urging
a little caution here with this fixation on testing, and at the same time
she's an extremely well-respected psychomatrician and was able to put all
this into real English for us," Tulenko said. "It was for all those
reasons we came out to the University of Iowa."
The University of Iowa has long been synonymous with standardized testing.
The Iowa Testing Programs, started in 1928 by E.F. Lindquist, is the developer
of the widely used Iowa Tests of Basic Skills and the Iowa Test of Educational
Development. So well known are the tests and the program that educators often
simply refer to "the Iowa tests" when discussing educational measurement.
UI testing faculty also have revised the General Educational Development (GED)
test, an examination given throughout the United States to measure the educational
achievement of students who do not have a high school diploma.
More information about the documentary is available online at http://www.pbs.org/merrow.
Founded in 1872, the University of Iowa College of Education was the nation's
first permanent college-level department of education. Since then the College
has gained an international reputation of excellence in fields as diverse
as rehabilitation counseling, testing and measurement, and language and literacy.
It is home to the Connie Belin & Jacqueline N. Blank International Center
for Gifted Education and Talent Development, and to such top-ranked programs
as Rehabilitation Counseling, Counseling Psychology, Educational Psychology,
Elementary Teacher Education, Secondary Teacher Education, and English Education