Bruce Choppin: Visionary

Bruce Choppin was recognized the world over as the expert on item banking and longitudinal testing. His rise to ascendancy began in 1964 when he became Ben Wright's first "Rasch" student in the MESA program at the University of Chicago. After obtaining his PhD in 1967, he held positions at Cornell and Hebrew University before becoming Principal Research Officer and, later, Assistant Head of Research at the National Foundation for Educational Research in England and Wales (NFER). One of his prime responsibilities was the Assessment of Performance Unit (APU). He resigned from NFER in 1981, and died under problematic circumstances in Santiago, Chile in 1983 [July 15] on his way to take up a position in Singapore.

"His leading interest during his professional years was undoubtedly international consultation: he conducted seminars in educational measurement and research in East and West Africa, Israel, Finland, Germany, Iran, Australia, and Indonesia, among other places, and his enthusiasm for international education, particularly for tackling the genuine problems of delivering and assessing in non- Western countries, was very strong" (McArthur p.5).

He served as Chairman of the International Project Council on Item Banking of the International Association for the Evaluation of Achievement (IEA). Even in his native Britain, his talent was recognized. In 1980, he was voted President of the British Educational Research Association (BERA).

Nevertheless, it was in Britain that his vision of tracking, and hence promoting, educational progress collided with the juggernaut of entrenched interests. Here is their rejection of his work, written 4 years after his death:
"How were comparisons to be made between years? Would the tests be the same, irrespective of changes in the world outside, such as the availability of calculators? No, was the answer. Some of the questions would change each year, and allowance would be made for this by a statistical method known as Rasch. But would this work? The [Assessment of Performance] Unit lacked statistical expertise, and could not distinguish bad advice from good, so not until 1981, four years after warnings were raised [and after Choppin's resignation], did it accept that the method would not work." (Leonard p.2)

Yet Choppin had already dealt with this alleged failure of the Rasch method in his 1980 BERA Presidential Address:
"Testing (on a very limited scale) began in 1978, so we shall have to wait some years before we have any real answers. There are also doubts in my mind as to whether the APU is going to be allowed to monitor change except in one or two rather trivial aspects. APU activity in itself appears to be controversial even before we have any results. There are statisticians advising the [British government] that monitoring performance over time is impossible, and curriculum specialists who feel that even the attempt will destroy existing teaching patterns in the schools" (Choppin p.99).

[One of those statisticians was Harvey Goldstein (1980).]

Why should the British educational establishment have rebuffed even the slightest effort to monitor the state of British education? Britain had committed the blunder of believing its own propaganda, namely that its educational system, till recently based on Latin and social class, was the best in the world. But Choppin, as diplomatically as possible, pointed out the unpleasantly hard facts:
"In 1940, less than 5% of Soviet youth completed [high] school. The increase to 98% in forty years is even more dramatic than the increase in Indonesian primary education [from 10% to 85%]. For the USSR too, more has meant better for several decades, and in Britain, with our meager 25% completing [high] school, we clearly have some way to go." (Choppin p.93).

Now, 10 years after Choppin's death, the continuing decline in Britain's standing in the world together with competition from foreign, particularly US, testing organizations is forcing a reevaluation of British testing methodology. Under Choppin's supervision British psychometrics could have lead the world (to the great benefit of British students, teachers, and policy makers). Instead the entrenched interests condemned Britain to a 60 year regression.

Choppin BH (1981) Is education getting better? British Educational Research Journal 7(1), reprinted in Evaluation in Education (now International Journal of Educational Rsearch). 1985. 9(1)

Goldstein, H. (1980). Dimensionality, bias, independence and measurement scale problems in latent trait test score models. British Journal of Mathematical and Statistical Psychology 33: 234-246.

Leonard, M. (1987) Will the Rasch model ride again? Times Educational Supplement v. 3714 Sept 4.

McArthur DL (1985) Introduction: Memories of Bruce Choppin. Evaluation in Education. 9(1).

Bruce Choppin, visionary. Linacre JM. … Rasch Measurement Transactions, 1995, 8:4 p.394

Rasch Publications
Rasch Measurement Transactions (free, online) Rasch Measurement research papers (free, online) Probabilistic Models for Some Intelligence and Attainment Tests, Georg Rasch Applying the Rasch Model 3rd. Ed., Bond & Fox Best Test Design, Wright & Stone
Rating Scale Analysis, Wright & Masters Introduction to Rasch Measurement, E. Smith & R. Smith Introduction to Many-Facet Rasch Measurement, Thomas Eckes Invariant Measurement: Using Rasch Models in the Social, Behavioral, and Health Sciences, George Engelhard, Jr. Statistical Analyses for Language Testers, Rita Green
Rasch Models: Foundations, Recent Developments, and Applications, Fischer & Molenaar Journal of Applied Measurement Rasch models for measurement, David Andrich Constructing Measures, Mark Wilson Rasch Analysis in the Human Sciences, Boone, Stave, Yale
in Spanish: Análisis de Rasch para todos, Agustín Tristán Mediciones, Posicionamientos y Diagnósticos Competitivos, Juan Ramón Oreja Rodríguez

To be emailed about new material on
please enter your email address here:

I want to Subscribe: & click below
I want to Unsubscribe: & click below

Please set your SPAM filter to accept emails from welcomes your comments:

Your email address (if you want us to reply):


ForumRasch Measurement Forum to discuss any Rasch-related topic

Go to Top of Page
Go to index of all Rasch Measurement Transactions
AERA members: Join the Rasch Measurement SIG and receive the printed version of RMT
Some back issues of RMT are available as bound volumes
Subscribe to Journal of Applied Measurement

Go to Institute for Objective Measurement Home Page. The Rasch Measurement SIG (AERA) thanks the Institute for Objective Measurement for inviting the publication of Rasch Measurement Transactions on the Institute's website,

Coming Rasch-related Events
May 17 - June 21, 2024, Fri.-Fri. On-line workshop: Rasch Measurement - Core Topics (E. Smith, Winsteps),
June 12 - 14, 2024, Wed.-Fri. 1st Scandinavian Applied Measurement Conference, Kristianstad University, Kristianstad, Sweden
June 21 - July 19, 2024, Fri.-Fri. On-line workshop: Rasch Measurement - Further Topics (E. Smith, Winsteps),
Aug. 5 - Aug. 6, 2024, Fri.-Fri. 2024 Inaugural Conference of the Society for the Study of Measurement (Berkeley, CA), Call for Proposals
Aug. 9 - Sept. 6, 2024, Fri.-Fri. On-line workshop: Many-Facet Rasch Measurement (E. Smith, Facets),
Oct. 4 - Nov. 8, 2024, Fri.-Fri. On-line workshop: Rasch Measurement - Core Topics (E. Smith, Winsteps),
Jan. 17 - Feb. 21, 2025, Fri.-Fri. On-line workshop: Rasch Measurement - Core Topics (E. Smith, Winsteps),
May 16 - June 20, 2025, Fri.-Fri. On-line workshop: Rasch Measurement - Core Topics (E. Smith, Winsteps),
June 20 - July 18, 2025, Fri.-Fri. On-line workshop: Rasch Measurement - Further Topics (E. Smith, Facets),
Oct. 3 - Nov. 7, 2025, Fri.-Fri. On-line workshop: Rasch Measurement - Core Topics (E. Smith, Winsteps),


The URL of this page is