Digital Directions - Fall 2012 - (Page 12)
Shifting to ADAPTIVE TESTING
hen Delaware switched to computer-adaptive testing for its state assessments three years ago, officials found the results were available more quickly, the amount of time students spent taking tests decreased, and the tests provided more reliable information about what students knew—especially those at the very low and high ends of the spectrum. But the path to launching those tests involved a significant education of students, parents, and teachers, a sizeable technology investment by the state, and the development of hundreds of test items for every exam. As many states move to put in place online testing tied to the Common Core State Standards in 2014-15, at least 20 states have indicated they plan to use new computeradaptive versions of the tests, and they’re looking at states like Delaware to learn some lessons. “Adaptive testing is really beneficial and can pinpoint a student’s learning level more closely,” says Gerri Marshall, the supervisor of research and evaluation for the 15,000-student Red Clay Consolidated School District in Wilmington, Del., which piloted such tests. Nationally, two coalitions have received federal funding to develop English/ language arts and mathematics tests for the common standards. Both coalitions—the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium and the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, or PARCC—have said their assessments will feature high-tech, interactive questions that incorporate video and graphics and are designed both to identify what students know and to be more engaging. Both assessments will be given online, but Smarter Balanced will use adaptive testing, while PARCC will use what are known as fixedform tests, which feature set questions that generally do not change. Only a handful of states—including Delaware, Hawaii, and Oregon—are now using adaptive testing on a widespread
The goal is to build better measures of student skills and knowledge
basis. Even supporters acknowledge challenges to its implementation and use, considering that many school districts are currently doing little, if any, testing online. “It’s a big philosophical shift for people,” says John Jesse, the director of assessment and accountability for the Utah department of education, which is in the process of developing its own computer-adaptive tests for the common core. “If your district is still using paper, shifting to online is big, and then shifting to adaptive testing might be too much of a move all at once.”
Seeking Greater Precision
So what exactly is the difference between a traditional test, which presents a student with a set number of test items that don’t change during test-taking, and adaptive testing? Testing experts say that traditional, or fixed-form, exams work well with the majority of students, who hover around the level the assessment is seeking to evaluate. Test questions are developed to appeal to most
ILLUSTRATION: iStockphoto_Stephan John
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Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Digital Directions - Fall 2012
Digital Directions - Fall 2012
DD Site Visit
Bits & Bytes
Shifting to Adaptive Testing
Tailoring the Tests To Special Needs?
Choosing the Right Device
Bandwidth Demand Rising
Are You Ready?
Where’s the Money?
High-Priority Virtual PD
Online PD Destinations
Virtual Ed. Dives In to the Common Core
Open Education Resources Surge
Digital Directions - Fall 2012