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Practice: Get quality data into your evaluator’s hands

Key Action: Use technique to ensure valid and reliable data

TOOL: Judging the Validity and Reliability of a Survey

Purpose: Surveys are commonly used to measure program
outcomes. However, to yield accurate information,
surveys must be both reliable and valid. The following
narrative and checklist can help you determine whether
surveys proposed for use in your evaluation have been
tested for reliability and validity.

Note: Reliability and validity are sometimes termed
“psychometric properties.” Conducting the statistical
tests required to establish survey reliability and validity
can be labor intensive. Individual magnet school
evaluations generally do not have the time or financial
resources to do thorough psychometric testing of an
instrument. The most efficient alternative is to use
existing evaluation instruments that provide appropriate
data documenting their reliability and validity.

Instructions: 1. Read the brief definitions and examples of “validity”
and “reliability.”

2. Review the checklist with your evaluator as a way
to begin a discussion about the validity and reliability
of survey instruments being used in your evaluation.


if a survey of students claims to measure their engagement in school activities. For example. Split-half reliability: Using two versions of questions and comparing the results d. so that they yield credible information. such as structural equation modeling. which of the following methods were used to establish these psychometric properties? a.e. Practice: Get quality data into your evaluator’s hands Key Action: Use technique to ensure valid and reliable data Judging the Validity and Reliability of a Survey Magnet schools are designed to produce both cognitive (improved learning in reading and mathematics) and noncognitive outcomes (increased student and staff engagement with academic content. Do they spend more time in school than is required?) or what books they read for pleasure (i. We shouldn’t ask if they “like” school—we can like something (“I like having the TV on when I’m home”) without being engaged with it (“the TV is a nice background while I’m cooking dinner”). an analytic technique that assesses the “fit” between the questions and the underlying constructs 2 . Does the survey instrument include accompanying data on its validity and reliability? 2.e. Without research tools and procedures whose reliability is documented. Commonly. we might ask how much time they devote to extracurricular activities (i. Factor analysis: Determining whether items that are conceptually linked show similar linkages in the answers c. Test-retest reliability: Administering the same test to the same groups multiple times. decreased racial isolation). some outcomes are measured through surveys.. Validity: Instrument validity means that the survey or test measures what it says it’s measuring. with similar results b. Checklist for Validity and Reliability 1. The keys here are the words “voluntarily” and “effort. and it’s important that such surveys are both valid and reliable. Reliability: Instrument reliability means that the survey or test yields the same results on repeated trials. then it should ask questions that address the extent to which they voluntarily commit time and effort to school-related endeavors. Other statistical techniques. a thermometer should read 212 degrees Fahrenheit every time it is placed in boiling water. and not some other concept. For example. Is the content of the Type here books related to the content of the curriculum?). it’s not possible to draw credible conclusions from your evaluation or make data-based decisions about how to improve your program. If so.” For example..