Digital Directions - Fall 2012 - (Page 14)
Tailoring the Tests to Special Needs?
Questions raised about adaptive assessments
By_Michelle R. Davis
omputer-adaptive testing, in theory, should allow educators to pinpoint more accurately the achievement levels of students with disabilities, to focus on areas where those students need help. Designed to provide each student with an individualized test, computer-adaptive testing gives students with disabilities more questions they can get right, preventing frustration, and can provide support to aid students as they take the exams, assessment experts say.
Advocates for such students say they are excited about the potential of adaptive tests to both engage students and measure their learning more accurately. But those advocates are also watching to make sure that the designers of computer-adaptive tests—which are being created by the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium to assess performance on the Common Core State Standards—understand that just because students may lag in one area, that doesn’t preclude them from being on grade level or advanced in another area. “Our biggest fear is that the test will lock out kids with disabilities because of the structure,” says Lindsay E. Jones, the senior director of policy and advocacy services for the Washington-based Council for Exceptional Children. “Students with disabilities do not demonstrate typical
learning patterns. Their skills may jump around.” The Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities recently drew up a policy statement on computer-adaptive testing and emphasized that students should be tested on the full range of grade-level content regardless of their proficiency levels entering the test. “A poorly designed adaptive test can deny students an opportunity to demonstrate their knowledge across the grade-level content,” the statement says. “It is important to keep in mind that difficulty and cognitive complexity are not the same.” Computer-adaptive tests are structured to provide test questions based on previous student answers; for example, if a student answers a question correctly, he or she will then be presented with a more difficult question. Advocates worry that
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score depends both on the number of items he or she got right and the difficulty of the items presented. Early trials, or field tests, present items to representative samples of students to evaluate the difficulty of each item in the pool and to translate that into values that will provide a score, Cohen says.
Personalization Improves Security
The biggest advantage to a computeradaptive test, experts say, is the ability to evaluate all students at their own levels. Because of that, students often report that they are more engaged with the test and find it more interesting, says Dirk P. Mattson, the executive director of K-12 assessment for the Educational Testing Service, who is based in the nonprofit testing company’s San Antonio office. ETS, which has been hired by Smarter Balanced to develop several aspects of the
computer-adaptive test, also produces the GRE, an adaptive graduate school admissions test. “There’s a belief that this provides a more rewarding testing experience for the testtaker,” Mattson says. “A struggling student doesn’t need to be beaten over the head encountering lots of questions they can’t handle, … and the student who is strong might welcome an additional challenge.” In addition, because each test for each student is personalized and there are so many test questions in the bank, security risks are lessened, says Doug Kosty, the assistant superintendent for assessment and information services for the Oregon department of education. His state has used computeradaptive testing for nine years. It’s unlikely that students sitting near each other would encounter the same test questions in the same order, for example. A student “can’t go out on the playground and compare notes
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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