The Embrace Change Edition
John F. Olson, Ph.D.
Industry Insider: John F. Olson, Ph.D.
During the 19th century, French essayist and novelist Marcel Proust — the author of In Search of Lost Time — created a parlor game that involved filling out a questionnaire to get to know the "true nature" of dinner guests. "Industry Insider" is the testing industry's take on Proust's game — an opportunity to get to know our colleagues just a little bit better.
Where do you work and what is your job title? I founded my consulting company, Olson Educational Measurement & Assessment Services, in 2006 and serve as President of it. How long have you worked in a job that involves test security? My first job was with ETS in 1985 and that is where I started hearing about the need for good test security; this issue became even more important when I started working alongside Caveon in 2008. Why do you think test security is important? It maintains the integrity and fairness of an assessment program, and the validity of the test results/inferences made on the scores that are reported; in addition, it has been added to the criteria for USED peer review critical elements and all states are required to provide sufficient evidence that they have secure assessments (note that I serve as a peer reviewer for the feds). What is your favorite thing about your job? I get to work with a wide variety of clients, including states, the USED, other countries, testing organizations, CCSSO, and Caveon on some very interesting and important assessment-related activities and issues. What is the biggest challenge to test security today? The advances in technology and the growing use of devices (smartphones, smart watches, hidden cameras, etc.) by young people, sometimes for nefarious uses (i.e. cheating) to share information on test items with one another. What do you think will be the biggest challenge to test security 20 years from now? Advanced micro-technology that is either wearable or embedded into people’s bodies, so they can secretly connect with the Internet and/or others to get assistance when taking tests. Why do you think people outside of this industry should care about test security? From an altruistic perspective, it's just not right to cheat and it’s not fair to others. I have heard the statistics on the percentage of students and adults who say they have cheated on tests (it is very high) and this is very concerning; so c’mon people, let’s have some moral fortitude and do the right thing – don’t cheat! (And if you do, you will get caught). What do you consider your greatest achievement? Getting my Ph.D. in educational measurement and statistics in 1985, and then going into the wild and wooly world of testing and working in this field for over 30 years. If you could choose one superpower to help you in your quest to keep tests safe, which superpower would you choose? The ability to read people's minds while they are taking a test and determine if they are answering items on their own or if they are using some type of illegal/improper tactic. What is one thing that is sitting on your desk right now that is completely unrelated to work? My mouse pad from the Musée du Louvre with a picture of Monna Lisa on it. What workplace skill do you wish you were better at? Patience. I sometimes want to move more quickly to a solution than others are capable of or willing to go; long, drawn-out meetings can test my patience, too. What is your lunchtime routine? Grab a bite after I work out at the gym – preferably a salad and some fruit – and sit down at the computer to respond to emails. What characteristic do you most value in a friend/colleague? Trust. I want to be able to fully trust my friends and colleagues. What characteristic do you most dislike in a friend/colleague? Dishonesty. This includes lying, stealing, and cheating. What words or phrases do you think are most overused in life and/or at the workplace? “Get thrown under the bus”. If that does happen in the workplace, it’s never good. I used to drive a school bus for a part-time job when I was in college, and the very last thing you’d want to happen is for someone to get thrown under the bus! What are your hobbies outside of work? I like going cruising on the lake in my motorboat, going fishing, going swimming, and playing my guitars. Which person (alive, dead and/or fictional) do you most admire? Jesus. What is your favorite book or writer? I always liked Samuel Clemens’ stories when I was growing up, but I recently read through all of George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series and enjoyed those books a lot. If you were to die and come back as a person or a thing, what would it be? I think being an angel would be great, like the archangels Michael or Gabriel, or even “Angel Second Class” Clarence from the movie It’s a Wonderful Life. That way, I could be around to help my family and others if they needed a little angelic assistance. I’d maybe even be assigned as guardian angel for my four little grandchildren. What is your motto? “Don’t sweat the small stuff… and it’s all small stuff”.
John F. Olson, Ph.D.
Olson Educational Measurement & Assessment Services
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