IOMW 2016, the western companion conference to PROMS, was held April 4-6 in Washington, DC. Hosted by the lovely Mount Vernon United Methodist Church near the center of the city, ringed with cherry blossoms, the conference was by all accounts a brilliant success and a solid step forward in the work of the international measurement community.
The unusually well-attended pre-conference on Monday, April 4, was dedicated to software. Eight software packages were presented -- four old standards and four relatively new packages: RUMM (David Andrich), Winsteps (William Boon), Facets (Mike Linacre), ConQuest (Rebecca Freund), ERMA (George Engelhard, Jr.), OpenBUGS (Hong Jiao), jMetrik (Patrick Meyer), and Damon-on-Python (Mark Moulton). After the presentations, there was a 2-hour panel on "the status of measurement software" and future directions. Moulton concluded by recommending the "scientific python" community (SciPy) as an exemplar for building an open-source library around a common language and set of tools for the measurement community. He called the proposed library MOMS (Multidisciplinary Open Measurement Software). It would consist of a "big data" utility, a cross-discipline library of psychometric and other measurement functions, and tools for running community software such as R, Winsteps, and jMetrik from inside Python. The day closed with workshops and round-table one-on-ones.
On Tuesday, Mark Wilson raised the very real prospect of Rasch measurement models being absorbed into statistics libraries as just another analysis method. He proposed emphasizing measurement as a human-driven interface between content knowledge and statistics, an approach being pursued through the Bear Assessment System Software (BASS) project. Other "foundational" papers addressed validity (Duckor, Behizadeh), the mathematical foundations of special objectivity (San Martin, Avello), and Rasch models as way to model supply and demand and other social interactions (Fisher).
Along this line, William Fisher promoted participation by Rasch professionals in the upcoming IMEKO 2016 conference on international scientific metrology (http://imeko-tc7-berkeley-2016.org/) to be held in Berkeley August 3-5. IMEKO offers a critical opening for broadening the application of Rasch models beyond education and health outcomes.
Also on Tuesday morning were an Andrich retrospective on Georg Rasch's struggle with polytomous models, a polytomous model to guarantee ordered thresholds (Chris Bradley), and an important presentation by Mike Linacre on estimation challenges that occur when applying JMLE to sparse datasets, with ways to overcome them.
Tuesday afternoon was a blizzard of presentations dealing with analysis of fit, DIF, testlets, multidimensionality, validation, detection, classification, and test construction. The presentations were startling and innovative, both in the choice of subject matter and in the integration of new methods with Rasch ideas.
Wednesday morning opened with a session on non-cognitive measurement as used for NAEP, PISA, and college success. The college success paper involved a quality of spiritual life construct build by the Church of the Latter Day Saints. Skye Barbic shared her work on measuring recovery outcomes in psychiatry, where patients, doctors, and social workers could visualize their progress on a plastic centimeter ruler. There were presentations on measuring household food security, metrological standards for health-care decision-making, non-cognitive readiness scales, metacognition, and teacher evaluation in Chile.
Wednesday afternoon had a session on issues of comparability and stability relating to adolescent mental health (Curt Hagquist), repeated measures (Vernon Mogol), and vertical scaling (Ida Marais). There was a session on the use of rating scale models to measure writing and musical performance. Another session focused on growth, including a striking demonstration of the use of lexile and quantile growth curves in North Carolina (Gary Williamson) and a mathematical specification of a value-added model for school accountability in Chile (Veronica Santelices and Ernesto San Martin). William Fisher philosophized on the "curves of life" described by Cook in 1914 -- how it is precisely the aberrations from structure that make life possible, even as such aberrations are only possible when a clear structure already exists.
For the last session, David Andrich discussed Rasch's criterion of invariance and Jack Stenner (standing in for Mark Stone) demonstrated the practical consequences of measurement invariance and the objective specification of scales. Travel awards of $250 were then awarded to Pey Shin Ooi (University of Adelaide), Hsiu-yi Chao (National Chung Chen University), Manqian Liao (University of Maryland, College Park), Jue Wang (University of Georgia), Chi-Chen Chen (National Sun Yat-Sen University) and Jinho Kim (University of California, Berkeley). Jinho Kim also received an honorable mention for his amazingly innovative paper, "Polytomous extension of item explanatory Rasch models: an application to the carbon cycle assessment data".
Sarah Thomas (University of Virginia) received the Benjamin Wright Innovations in Measurement Award ($500) for her beautifully presented paper combining Rasch modeling with machine learning, "Identifying compromised test items using the Rasch model and support vector machines." Dandan Liao (University of Maryland, College Park) received the Best Paper by a Graduate Student award ($500) for her advanced and elegant paper, "A multigroup cross-classified testlet model for dual local item dependence in the presence of DIF items." Presentations and papers are being collected and will be posted on the iomw.org website, along with photographs and other memorabilia.
The IOMW Conference Committee, under the leadership of Brent Duckor and Mark Moulton, passed the IOMW torch to the formidable team of Ronli Diakow and Andrew Maul. Ronli and Andy have kindly consented to organize the next IOMW, to take place in New York City in April 2018.
The conference concluded with a toast and memorial for Benjamin Wright, the passionate and beloved champion of Rasch measurement in the 20th century, who passed away last October.