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Criterion-referenced Measurement

Glenn Rowley and Colin Macpherson

A man once owned a dog which was inclined to jump over the back fence and enjoy the delights of the neighbourhood. Deciding that he needed a new fence around his yard, the man was confronted with the problem of determining how high the fence should be. Because he wanted to approach the task systematically, he took his dog to a testing agency, where the animal was put through an extensive series of jumping tests. Eagerly, he awaited the results of the tests, which took some time to arrive. The testing agency you see, carried out a nationwide dog-testing program, and the results had to be processed by computer, along with those of thousands of other dogs.
Finally, the test results arrived in the mail. They were very detailed. His dog, he learned, was about average for Australian dogs. It was, however, well above average for daschunds, and a little below average for greyhounds. He was told that nationwide norms and even neighbourhood norms could be provided given time and money. Although he'd love to have known how his dog compared with these in the next street, the owner regretfully declined. The tests, unfortunately, had not told him what he had set out to find how high a fence his dog could jump. Had he asked an unanswerable question or had he just asked it of the wrong people?

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