Utility and Validity of NAEP Linking Efforts

There are a number of practical situations in which it would be desirable to be able to use the results of the administration of one assessment to estimate what the results would have been if another assessment had been administered. Test linking refers to the idea that results obtained from the administration of one test might be used to infer what the results would have been if another test had been used. This paper reviews the strengths and limitations of commonly employed linking methodologies, reviews the history of linking efforts involving the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), and proposes a framework to consider linking utility and validity. In particular, the paper suggests that the utility of answers based on linking depends on the kinds of decisions that are to be made and the increase in the positive outcomes of those decisions that can be achieved through linking, when compared to decisions based on no information. An alternative paradigm, in which questions about the relations between the NAEP scale and the scales of other tests were phrased as validity research rather than linking, is also proposed.