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T-urnbull, William W. . 
. The Worldwide Issue of Access. 
25 Bay 81 ^ 
16p. : Paper presented at Philippine Normax College, 

HF01/PC01 Plus Postage. 

♦ Access to Education; ^College. Admission; Educational 
Mobility; *Educational Opportunities; Higher . 
Education; Socioeconomic status; Testing Problems. 
♦Student Centered Assessment 


The assumption is made that opportunity means a 
fchance to, participate, if one chooses , in the intellect ual, economic 
And personal towards available ^ost readily through mastering the 
skills,, svch as literacy and numeracy, that *are important in at least 
one of the viable cultures that make up" the society . - Historically, 
the me»bers\o£ some groups, notabl$the poor, have seldom had that 
chance because they have lacked effective instruction in the skills 
needed to advance within the culture. <The issue of access includes a 
succession of opportunities, with each success making the next one 
■ore likely, and each failure a barrier to further progress, 
"Student-centered assessmfct" is proposed as a means of substantially 
improving the chance of all students to develop as far and a£*fast as 
fchey can. It emphasizes immediate feedback to both the student and 
the teacher. Examples . from the classroom and from the guidance 
process are used to illustrate this, model of assessment. Its 
implications for admission requirements for higher education are / 
discussed. (Author/BH) / 

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. William W. Turnbull 1 
Distinguished Scholar in Residence 
Educational Testing Service 


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Paper presented $ ?hi1 ippine Normal College, Manila, Philippines on May 25, 1981 

Chairman 6orpus, President Dagot, colleagues and guests: - 

•.Education has^ special pi ace in this society and in every society, 
as is dramatized byS^e growing number of international gatherings 
devoted to seeking, ways to improve it and especial ly -to make its benefits 


more broadly available to people' of all ages and all walks of life, 

"Education is the chief hope for making of all people the most that we 

•are capable of becoming — not just at the moment, through the immediate 

benefit of knowledge, but in all our lives, through the-habit of using 

our minds and.the skills needed in sql v i ng difficult problems. "A precious 

commodity indeed!. Educat-i6n is both an end in itself and a means, to ' 

> * * 

. 1 larger ends. No wonder people everywhere seek its benefits. 

But I mustypause to recognize that this view is*not universally 

*held in any society. 'I am keenly aware that* different peaple hold 

divergent conceptions of opportunity, of success, and of how education 

relates to each of those elusive qualities. y * l 

Some people take as a 'given' that at most^ times, if not all, and in 

most societies, if not all, 'the principal function of schooling has been 


to transmits children the attitudes^and values of the dominant culture 
and the ski 1 Is- needed to succeed, Hi thin i't. , \ 

The transmission of the dominant or majority culture wA\ be 


identified immediately by some people as basically hostile to opportunity 

/ I 

In this yiew, opportunity is at an optimum if and when the individual is 

enabled to develop or unfold as a unique person, not stampad in^any 
cultural mold. -Teaching is seen as ^indoctrination. More efficient * 1 
teaching, then, is seen as more effective domination of the individual 
by the majority culture. If "opportunity" means the chance to remain 
independent of the culture, or even protection against b.eing seduced into 
it, then teaching will mean, a diminution of opportunity, and 'the better 
the teaching, the less chance thd individual will have ta find self- 
fulfillment. ' 

In my paper, I w>ll build upon a different view of education and - 
of opportunity. I" make the working assumption that opportunity means a 
chance te^articipate, if one chooses ,' in the ^intellectual^' economic* and 
personal rewards avail abl e most readily through ^aste^ing the skills such 
as literacy and numeracy that are important in at least one of the viable 
cultures that make up^the Society. Historically, the members of some 
g'roups — notably the poor ~ have seldom had that chance becagse they 
have lacked effective instruction in the sk-ilTs needed to advance* within 
the culture. In this view, education is essential to.opportunity , and ■ 
whatever procedures lead to providing children — 'especially children 
of poor .famil ies with th£ skills, that are basic within v the culture 
are procedures that enhance opportunity . That is my own oirEtook, frorq 
which the propositions I shall put before* you are derived. • . 

Today I waht to talk about "The Worldwide Issue of Access." In • 
•choosing the title, J was well aware that it is ambiguous'/iince it 

• . -3- * • 


invites the question: Access to what? In the United' States, .most people 
would immediately assume I v<as thinking of access, to higher education, * 
which is both an important and a controversial topic* It conjures. up 
questions' of college entrance criteria and procedures\grades and test 
scores, obtained at tne time of admission to, study at the tertiary level, 
and thesB are frequently looked upon^arrowly as essential ly defjning the 
^'problem" of access. But this is surely an Tnadequate. view of the 
situatiort. ~ ■ 

\r\ the first place, we all recognize that each stage- of education fs 
linked with every other stage. Jccess to a higher level depends important 
on success at a lower one, and so the problem of access is pushed down 

the grade and age scale: one might well say that' access to college or 


graduate school begins with access to kindergarten, and indeed earlier, 

. \ 

with access to favorable family circumstances far pre-school development. 
And so wejhXye to look at pathways to ultimate attainment within the 
educational system ~ pathways that are joined at transition joints 
between succgssive levels and that' largely- determiae access to higher 
education, for example, many years before the stu3ent approaches the end 
of secondary edifcation, going back, to early learning and the primary 
grades. ■ ' * \ 

In talking a^it "The Worldwide Issue* of*Access" we also have to 
look at the other end of* the scale: the graduation end. In many cases, 
the reason for seeking to progress to higher levels of instruction is 
plainly to quality for a better job: to gain the credentials needed for 
a career rewarded in and by society. And so when we talk about access to 
further education and a chance at a "diploma, we are really tal-king aboOt 
a passport to "the good Ijfe." , * 


v. _ • 

I should like, then, td see the "Issue of access not as a one-time 

event bdt in, the, broa<Jer ^ramew^k of a succession^of opportunities, with j 

each privilege or advantage or success making the next one more likely, 

and witfreach rejection or failure a barrier, sometimes insurmountable, 

* 9 # 

to further progress, I'should like also to keep before us ^the fact that 

we are talking not 6nly about access to more andbetter schooling ^ut by^ 

the same token about aqcess to a rewarding career; not only'about educational 

i - 

chances but about life chances as .well. t 

If*may simplify mptters if we look at tlja question of access # 
chronologically, as the indivfdual grows up and proceeds through the 
system. .Because I think it will illustrate the issues well,, I should 
like to look at some of the complexities and interlocked conditions in • 
the seemingly simple notion of access to college, . / . 

The first rule for success* if ydu are to win in this game is: 
choose your parents carefully!. This audience needs no documentation of 
the close relation between the socioeconomic status of parents and the 
school readiness of their children— ar$, indeed, the' ^equal ities in 
the social backgrounds of people holding the more attractive versus the 
less attractive 'jobs in tfjis nation, in my own, and indeed in every other 
country I know about, no matter what 4ts philosophy. These disparities 
are rooted deep J n the economy and the society, and I have no easy 
formula for removing them. Billet us at least not help create them or 
magnify them by our educational policies; as I fear we often do. 


I shall draw my illustrations ch^efty from practices in my own 
field of assessment. It has often be£n held that measurement or testing 
or 1 assessment serves primarily to-reward those whose 'borne circumstances 

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have given them the greatest material advantages and familiarity with 
the culture. The results of assessment therefore support the more rapid 
advancement of middle- and upper-class children to higher level *'of 
instruction, reinforce the stratification of society, and serve to 
perpetuate the poverty cycle rather than to break it. This is, in fact, 
a role that measurement has often played in education. The next question, 
therefore, is: can we design and apply assessment in education expressly 
to play the opposite role of .breaking rather "than reinforcing the cycle 
of opportunity?- How should measurement be used and interpreted ,if it 


is to promote opportunity rather than restrict .it? 

It is clear that a remodelled system of testing, evaluation^ 
assessment, a,ll by itself, cannot guarantee equal attainments by al'l 
students. No one suggests that equal experience is going to lead to 
equal performance in eiiher athletic or academic activities. To begin 
" with, the quality of the teaching and the curriculum are critical. 
(Moreover, the expectations of parents and children and the organization 
of society exert powerful influences that are slow to^ change." But the 
process of change toward the broader attainment of success must begin 
at several places, and the issue today is how measurement or assessment , 
' can contribute to realization by all students of X\)ejr full potential. 
There are, I submit, a few principl es- in the desig^n and use of 
assessment in education that. can improve. substantial ly the chance of 
all students "to develop their- skills' as far and as fast as they can and 
will develop them. I 'shall use the term "studW-centered assessment" 
to sum up the concept that, I shall describe and that I advocate. 

What does this mean specifically? I shall men^ton two characteristic 
applications of student-centered assessment: in the classroom, where it 
is integrated with instruction, and in the guidance process. 

Student-centered assessment emphasises immediate feedback to both 
the student and the teacher in' the classroom in the course of instruction:' 
the "formative evaluation" tha^ -Benjamin BToom has written- about in the 
context of mastery learning. Th^^ape two important attributes to this 
kind of measurement. The ftrst ^s that it -is used to improve learning 
rather than simply to keep score. The ^second is that it deals within 
immediate follow-up to an observed condition, a short-range action 
rather than a long-term prediction. I am talking here about diagnosis, 
area by area, aVid short-range prescription of instruction related to the 
next unit of work for which the child is prepared. This integration of 
measurement with instruction offers great potential for maximizing 
learning. It provides "the way to capitalize on rapid learning by 
allowing the successful student to keep moving while, for^a student who 
is having difficulty, allowing the detection of problems in skill 
acquisition early enough to aVlow their correction. 

let me underscore the short-range nature of the ^mmed iate classroom 
feedback and next assignment that is available through integrating a 
teaching and testing. This is important, 'it contrasts sharply with 

the a]/- too- common practice of using measurement information as a basis 

/ ■» , 

for what are, in effect, long-t|rm predictions. I bfrlieve that most ot 

our worst mistakes in the application of toeasuremenl arise from assuming 

'that the results form a proper basjs for' irreversibl e decisions. Children 


are dynamic organisms, capable of change. and development, respbnding 

' . * * 

.often in unexpected ways to new experience. For that reason, use of IQ 

scores, for exampte; to place children in fast or sj^ow tracks at an early 

age is generally ba^practice for several reasons, but mainly because our 

school systems typically lack the flexibility to keep up with changes in 


the child. 

It Is worthwhile to dwell on this example for a moment, since it 
illustrates some of the problems inherent in a frequent use (or misuse) 
of assessment. First, it builds ^general tracking procedure — fast or — 
slow, for all subjects*^ on an overall global measure of IQ, ignoring 
the fact that abilities and achievements are specific, not general, and 
students move 'forward at different rates in different areas of learning. 
Second, -it confuses the observation that the person has not yet, developed 
very far or fast with the infe^nce that the person cannot develop far 
or fast given appropriate encouragement and help. As a' result, insofar 
as Initial opportunities are unequal and later opportunities are predicated 
on*e'arlier successes,: inequal ities are cumulate. Thus the assessment 
system can be Wed to reinforce social stratification, especially since 
early performance is a functioncof home environment and intellectual 
t stimulation outside ( of school. And the* cycle of poverty continues, with 
children of people whose opportunities were limited having a hard time 
breaking into the fast track and the ensuing privileges of further 
opportunity. The best 'defense against this pernicious effect is the 
use of measurement only for short-range decisions as to the^next learning 

• task in the^same classroom instructional unit, rather than' as a basis 


for generalized placement that quickly rigidifies into tracks that are 
hard to modify *nd herlce become, de facto , long-term assignments. 

f • f * y 

"The same principle of emphasizing short-term rather than long-range 
predictions applies with even greater force to the other area in wttich 

'student-centered assessment can contribute to educational ^opportunity. 

'"That area is guidance. Here the principal aim should jiot be to identify 
for the student, at an early age, his or her best ultimate* niche in 
education or in a career. Rather it should be to help the student plan % + 
each successive educational step with a view toward keeping open as many 
options as possible. . / 
I am talking about a system of assessment that is the antithesis of 
"tracking." Let me contrast it with an all -two- common scenario. In this 
well-known traditional model, mictdl e-cl ass parents begin coaching thefir 
pre-school children at home in ofder to get them into the "best" .nursery 
schools or- kindergartens , which are in-turn the avenues to the most 
favored'and successful elementary schools. These lead naturally and 
easily to middle schools offering enriched programs, and finally — 
mirabile dictu — the children with the good start turn up in the best * 
colleges, graduate schools and careers. 

We are unlikely to see any change in the behavior of parents in al\ 
this as the educational systerrMs comprised of schools that vary widely 
in quality and as long as we educators persist in our predisposition 
toward oversimplified notions of intelligence, in our habits of long-term 

/ prediction' from assessment, in our traditions of^rigidity in instructional, 

grouping, in the inflexibility of our transfer policies, all of which 

leadfc inexorably to the answer that access at the end of the line is* 

highly "predictable solely on the basis of favorable access at the beginning 

Surely this is an outgrowth of inequities embedded. .in our economic and 

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social systems over which we as educators may rightly feel we have little 
direct influence. We could shrug our shoulders and say' the problem is 
caused by our inability to mata aTl schools equal. But jjust as surely 
the problem is a product of ^educational policies that we fan Ind do • 
control ^whether or^not we are conscious of their effects. - J 

m * S « • % >• - 

Given the .critical nature of th£se early determinants of access to 

higher education, the familiar debates about the relative importance 

of th,e ..immediate criteria for admission at the end of secondary school 

seem less critical than they may appear to^obseryers prepccupi^wi th the ' 

event of acceptance rather than with the train of circumstances that 
' . ( : 

operate tQ define the pool of applicants and to put some of them well * 
ahead of others in the competition, r . / 

To cite an illuminating statistic: in the United States 'today* the 
proportion of Black and Hi spanic. high school graduates who go on to 
. college is essentially the samfe as /the proportion of White high school 
graduate's who enter colfege. Btft this statement masks a significant 
difference. Many more Black students drop out before they ever reach the 
end of secondary school , and so the proportion of the age group — the 
population subgroup — of Black or Hispanic' youngsters goi<ng to college 
is substantially below'the proportion of tbe same White age group who g.o 
on. The minority students l*ave -secondary school before' graduation in 
much greater numbers "tha^do the majority students, in effect, 'access is 
being determined by retention rates in Grades 9 through 11 much more lhan 
by admission criteria applied in Grade' 12. * \^ 

* ,0f course there is much to be said about -the admissions' criteria* 
themselves: the test scores, the school grades, the personal references, 


the interviews and so on. /This is the area in which I have spent most of 
my professional life, and so you .W3l 1. perhaps believe me when I say I 
think it- is of some importance-, but our. time is short; the ar^um^ts are' 
familiar, and I'd like to look brie'fly^at the other end of the wondwide , 
issue of access: that 'is, access to a jDt> in "one's chosen field aftJer } 
graduation from college* • 

The- variations on national policies of job- access seem endless^ but 


let me illustrate four principal types: first, the laissez-faire system 
i^the United Stated, second, the predestined career -system of the Soviet 
Union; third, the intermediate system of We?t Germany whicfr might bjL 
called the recognized'special ist system; and fourth, the undifferentiated 
degree^qual i f icat i on system of countries too numerous to mention. Each 
of .these different job. access systems, which can also bethought of as ' 

college exit systems, will work best if it is coupled with a matching 
degree ofctfntrol over the college process, or wljo gets 'into college and 
into w^tch field of study. . 

In collegeson the United States, the students enter virtually any 
Afield of study they^may elect , with very few, except ions suc^as medicine 
or law'' where there is a shortage of places. What they do when they' 
graduate is entirely up to them and to their efforts to find employment % 
related to their s^ylies. Nobody has guaranteed them a job in their area 
of specialization, and^many a trained economist or v is working 
as an editor of children's booktf or even as a taxi-driver. This Is what 
- I call*the exit system of laissez-faire , sometimes with a vengeance, with 
• the field of study entirely -up to ^the students who, constitute t^e; supply 
of talent in any field- and ^guite independent of the employers who cfefine 
the demand. , ^ 

/ • 


In'the Soviet Union, with its predestined career system, the person 

s wh6 grtjjuates as an engineer or economist is employed Under that-tjitle. 
There is a\kind of social contract linking education and career? ^'Accordingly, 
• it becomes -exceedingly important to ac^ept^ for higher studies only as ^ \ 
, ■ many engineers or economists as *an be utilized as such after graduation, 
a-Tthough obviously the match can seldom beperfect* . I" • 

Somewhere in between is the West German* system which does nbt • 
guarantee the emerging economist a job in his or f her field of st^jdy but 

doe^il have been told, recognize the certified expertise of the graduate 

' 1 » 4b •* ■ 

' by providing certain benefits scaled to" the individual's field of • «• 

accomplishment. Thus an engineer who is unable to find employment in . 

that field qualifies fok better 'unempl oyment compensation, for -example, 

than'do^s a would-be plumber who is also unemployed. -This system 

£ which I have termed the recognized "special is^ system would seem tcfcall 

' for a system of partially controlled admission by field or dis"cip||iie* 

which is midway between the laissez-faire system o.f the,United States antf 

'•»' £he predestined career r sy?t,em of Russia. ^ 

. The' system that 1 have referred to as undifferentiated degree* 

qualification is one that insists that in order Jto be admitted to a 

i * *. * 

certain level of employment — for example, a' given Civil Service rank*— 

* * ! 

«'a person must hap a college degree. The field of study makes little or' 

no difference; A specialist io^jjlntaj:* Art may be employed as a beginning 

bureaucrat provided he or she lbs the requisite bachelor's degree, and 

later promotion will perhaps depend mainly on being able to .cite the 

/degree and a stipulated number of years of experience on the previous 

job. Here the number of -entrants to a particular, field of study is less 

4 4 -12- . * 

"critical than some reasonable control of the aggregated, undifferentiated 
supply of people with the degree quaTif ication. [ , # * 

Thus the entrance policy that n^tkes sense for a country depends 
heavtly on the ex1t*policy that it has aborted, and the linkage between " - 
educational access arid career access may be tight or loose. But in every 
country the linkage is there, most people in the society know it* and 
• most of them plan their educational strategies^ accordingly , depending on 

the clarity of perception, their financial circumstances, and the 4 

value they place on a prestigious career for their childrert. 

I, have been speaking as 1f education were carried on in an older- 

tradition of continuous attendance to some point of graduation with no 

*0 * 

further instruction in the individual's future. But toda^y, of cour$e, 

recurrent education or continui^ education has changed that circumstance. 

More and, more older people, already employed, are seeking ways to extend • „ 

* ♦ 

th.eir* education outside the classroom or outside of what used to be* 
considered fltffiqal hotirs of sthool in JflB^P h correspondence or TV or 
0%m night school. Again,' we can,*^hifougfr^ur''educational policies, affect 

access dramatical ly* by how maeh effort we 'put into making such; no n-fo rural 

* . * - s ' 

or non-traditional arrangements available to people' eager for seqgjpd " n 

- chances ,or successively enhanced careers: * 1 

To begin a summing up: "The Worldwide Issue of Access" often seems 

- so deeply embedded in a nation's total economic and political circum- 
stances that th£ educational Community has only a limited role to play. 

Partly, that is true. But I submit t hers are some important steps that 

v , , 

eduqators'.have it largely within their power to take., 



First, we can mend our ways in the^ earliest years of schooling and 

on through the middVe schobl . By this I mean we should see children as 

highly differentiated, , pi astic , dynamic -organisms, growjng at different 

rates in different skill s. We should integrate measurement with instruction, 

as a basis, for short-run decisions. We should remember that students 


respond to opportunity, and fling away misguided ambition to indulge in 

long-term predictions or prescriptions forNpeoplie. And we should "place 

our emphasis on formative evaluation, diagnosis and planning of next 

steps, rather than on certification or summative evaluation. These 

emphases will succeed o onlyjf we couple with them a dedication <to / 

greater flexibility in our policies of instructional grouping and 

transfer as children grpw and Change In their own individual wsys, * 

We need to recognize that the most effective way to increase the 

representation of rural and poor students in college is to make Sure 

those with academic abilities and interests take the appropriate pre-college 

subjects'and stay in school until they graduate',. The schools can emphasize 

this approach, and the colleges can give significant help through an 

■ active program in cooperation with the schools. Such a program would 

substitute active terms, like "talent identification" and "outreach" for 

passive concepts like "-admission" and "access," and could do wonders in 


opening new*doors for children of poverty." ^ 

At the stage of admission, IJjhinR we need a diversity oj types of 
Institutions and curricula to match the variety in -student interest and 
preparation if access is to be meaningful to the student's, own aspirations 
and abilities. And since access, broadly^defined, is much a matter of 
jfcaTing in as it is of getting in , we need a variety of support^systems 

. * 

* 15 


avail ab 6 le\n the college^ especially for the beginning student whose 

background ispess- ttfell. attyped to. an academic environment than that of , * 
his peers. J - 

At gradation apd thereafter, we can seek to educate employers to 
the futility lof certification systems tfiat are unrelated to demonstrated 
capability to, handle, the demands of. a caVeer in ^particular field. That n 
means we must, work with" government and private sector agencies to try to 
harmonize entrance "and exit pol|cies> In laissez-faire systems like that 
-in the United States, we can provide students with infinitely better 
.information than they now h*?e about anticipated career opportunities in ^ v 
different fields, that the "free .market "• system of selecting one's own 



curriculum can be based on reason rather than a capricious process of 

• v . 

choice. And we can exert greater efforts in the area of recurrent education, 
to make formal study opportunities more avail ablest unconventional tirfjes 
and places, to provide courses by television artd dther off-campus 
techniques, and to provide means by e*awinaticm or other assessment - 
methods to'allow students to demonstrate and be recognized for their ' 
accomplishments. % 

Many of these s^eps, are ours to take. c If we succeed, in any country,' 
we will have made. enormous strides toward adjel iorating or solving^some of 
*"The Worldwide Issues of Access." 


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