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Henry Chauncey

An American Life


Norbert Elliot

A leader in twentieth-century education, Henry Chauncey (1905–2002) introduced large-scale assessment into the lives of individual Americans. This first full-length educational biography examines Chauncey’s education at Groton School, Ohio State University, and Harvard College, his position as a teacher at William Penn Charter School, and his role as founding president of the Educational Testing Service. Documenting a career extending from the Great Depression through the end of the Cold War, this book provides an interpretative history of educational measurement through the careers of Chauncey and his contemporaries. As researcher, administrator, and writer, Chauncey dealt with topics central to the history of schools and schooling: the role of accountability in education; the value of individual difference; the identification of talent; the necessity of international perspectives; the resonance between technology and learning; and the impulse for social justice. This biography provides insight into the multidisciplinary factors that shaped the social enterprise of American education.
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Chapter 7. Pentimento, 1970 to 2002



PENTIMENTO, 1970 TO 2002

By the early 1970s, state-of-the-art equipment such as the Digital Corporation’s Programmed Data Processor-11, a minicomputer with 8K of memory, transformed the world of computing. In the 1960s, SCRIBE needed the entire first floor of a building to score tests. New technologies such as the PDP-11, delivered at desktop, allowed interaction between machine and human. Ever an early adopter of technology, Henry Chauncey saw the potential at once: through the computer, the individual student could increase self-knowledge and thus make more informed education and career decisions.

In the 1950s, among the many projects under consideration to buttress the finances of the new Educational Testing Service, Chauncey had imagined a Census of Abilities. Similar to the traditional demographic profile of the nation, his census would be an information base of the developed abilities of all citizens. Because of its sheer enormity, that project never found a federal home. But structured, individual guidance—delivered at a maximum cost of $5.00 per hour to the sponsoring educational institution in 1971—could garner information that could be used at the 2,525 postsecondary institutions across the nation. Under the direction of research psychologist Martin R. Katz, ETS had developed a computer-based System of Interactive Guidance and Information (SIGI). SIGI was especially designed for use at the community-college ← 283 | 284 → level, where enrollment was expected to more than double between 1970 and 1980, from 1 million students in 1965 to 2.2 million in 1970....

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