History of CREATE
from the 25th Annual CREATE Conference
by Sandy Horn
Greetings to all of you from Cary, North Carolina. My name is Sandy Horn, and it’s a pleasure to celebrate 25 Years of CREATE with you.
The CREATE that exists today is successor to the original CREATE that was formed by Dr. Dan Stufflebeam and his team at the University of Michigan at Kalamazoo, after receiving a five-year grant. When the grant expired, the question was put to the membership to decide whether an organization dedicated to research on educational assessment and teacher evaluation should continue as a self-supporting entity or simply wink out, once funding ceased. The answer is pretty obvious, since you are sitting here, today, and in 1995, this iteration of CREATE was established.
Until my retirement two years ago, I was actively involved in CREATE as a Board member or officer for almost all of its existence. As you probably know, CREATE is an entirely volunteer organization, and as such, the officers and board serve without compensation. I only mention this to emphasize the dedication of those who have sustained this organization over the years. Such dedication results from the belief in the importance of open discourse about the often controversial topics of educational assessment and accountability. If you share this belief, I encourage you to consider becoming a Board member, officer, or committee member. You will find it to be an extremely rewarding and satisfying contribution to the field.
So why does this admittedly difficult field arouse such dedication? For me, at least, it is because I believe that educational assessment is absolutely and fundamentally essential to ensuring that children receive the best education that we can provide to them. By determining how much learning takes place within classrooms and exploring what works and what doesn’t, we can provide practitioners and policymakers with the information they need to make wise decisions that impact children.
As we go forward, I would like to suggest that a large part of the energy in educational assessment must be channeled into outreach—outreach to educational practitioners and policymakers. Maybe I feel this way because the last fifteen years of my life were involved with teaching educators, mostly at the classroom, school, and district level, how to use their own data to improve progress for students who were not keeping up with their peers and to maintain the progress of students who were. It was my experience that even those educators who were initially hostile to the data, either on principle or because their data showed them to be less than effective, would, over the course of our conversation, come to own and embrace the information their data provided as a powerful tool for achieving our mutual goal: improving the educational progress of students.
What we find out about schools and classrooms through educational assessment must be used in those schools and classrooms if we are to see any improvement in the educational experience of students, and that is, in my opinion, the only reason we should do educational assessment. If that is to happen, we must put our findings in the hands of educators and ensure they know how to interpret and use it for the betterment of students.
My career in educational assessment and accountability was in the field of growth models—specifically EVAAS and its iterations, developed by Dr. William Sanders. When CREATE was young, to say that test measures could provide any useful information to teachers, especially about their own effectiveness, was complete heresy. Educational assessment was almost entirely comprised of competing observational models and theories. Nevertheless, CREATE provided a forum for the discussion of growth models, even back then, as well as the accepted models of the day.
CREATE is and always has been a forum for a wide spectrum of ideas and approaches to educational assessment and to how these approaches have been and are being applied to address the strictures of accountability. Practitioners present how they have addressed the effectiveness of teachers and schools and whether their efforts have been effective or not. New methods of assessment are presented and discussed. I doubt if any of you agrees with everything you’ve heard during this conference (and, maybe, during this speech), and that is as it should be. CREATE provides a place and time for questioning colleagues and challenging ideas, as well as receiving feedback. While encouraging this, I want to remind us all that integrity requires OPEN debate, not closed minds. Listen, explore, think, and consider. Challenge yourself as well as others. The space for collegial debate that CREATE provides is one of its greatest contributions to the field.
So thank you all for what you are doing for the children, through your work in educational assessment and accountability and through your participation as a member of CREATE. Many, many, happy and productive returns.