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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Moving Beyond Holistic Scoring through Validity Inquiry

Creative Commons 'BY-NC-ND' version 4.0 license

This article re-examines the research into placement that William L. Smith did at the University of Pittsburgh during the 1980s and 1990s by situating Smith's work within the larger context of educational measurement theories, placement testing, and holistic scoring. I present the series of research studies that Smith conducted into Pitt's placement test as a case study in validation inquiry, arguing that his approach serves as a model for those who direct writing assessments. The implications of Smith's research reach beyond placement into first year composition: by approaching local writing assessment needs as Smith did, writing assessment professionals not only can create more effective assessments, but they also can contribute significantly to assessment theory.

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