Explain the following statement: In selecting an assessment, validity has priority over reliability.

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Let's first go over the difference between reliability and validity. To start, reliability is the consistency of the measurement. This means that if you completed a measurement on different days, you would expect them to remain the same. For example, if you weighed an object, then you would expect for it to continue to weigh the same amount every time you weighed it. Now, validity occurs when the test measures what it is supposed to measure. For example, if you are measuring weight, then you want to use a scale that measures weight, like pounds or kilograms, versus a tool that measures something else, like height. Now, while its important to have both reliability and validity, validity is the most important, because we want to ensure that the test or experiment is measuring what we intend to measure in order for the results to make sense. Reliability is something that can be worked on, by completing more measurements to ensure that we are being consistent.

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In choosing an assessment, validity should have priority over reliability for two reasons.

First, validity is arguably more important than reliability.  When you select an assessment, you want it to measure the thing that it is supposed to measure.  You do not want to select, for example, a reading comprehension assessment that actually measures only the student’s ability to decode words.  Validity is the measure of how well your assessment actually measures what it is supposed to measure.

Second, and perhaps more importantly, any assessment that is valid will also be reliable.  That means that, by picking a valid assessment, you will also get a reliable assessment.  An assessment is reliable if it returns more or less the same score every time someone with the same ability level takes it.  If a test is valid, it cannot help but be reliable.  If it is truly measuring what it should measure, it has to return more or less the same result each time a person with the same ability level takes it.

For these reasons, it makes more sense to seek validity over reliability.

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