Adaptive testing

The Huffington Post recently published an article discussing the role that computerized adaptive testing (CAT) plays in K-12 educational assessment.  It presents some of the issues in the field of standardized testing, and then discusses how CAT can address some of those issues.  This article is a refreshing departure from those typically seen in the mainstream media, which often complain about student assessment without taking the time to become informed on the topic, most notably understanding all the benefits that it provides and advantages over alternatives.  In fact, the article specifically notes that much of the debate going on just completely misses the point.  I recently read an article in a parenting magazine that was on the other end of the spectrum, bordering on fear-mongering sensationalism.

Some of the advantages of CAT discussed:

  • CAT helps refocus learning on instruction
  • CAT can reduce the “corruptive pressures” and teaching to the test
  • CAT can enhance security: there are no bubble sheets, which completely eliminates the possibility of teacher modification, and can provide accommodations automatically, greatly reducing the chance of teachers cheating during the accommodation process (e.g., reading the test questions to a student)
  • CAT provides more accurate scores for high-ability and low ability students, and for disabled students
  • CAT tests can cost less and typically take much less time to administer (research suggests 50% less time testing)

Of course, CAT is not a panacea to all the problems facing student assessment, much less our educational system.  However, it has been shown to have numerous benefits, supported by a large body of scientific literature.  The SMARTER Balanced Assessment Consortium has the right idea in utilizing CAT technology to meet the assessment needs of its member states.  I am eagerly looking forward to seeing how those endeavors turn out.

Here is the full article URL: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/darrell-west/how-technology-can-stop-c_b_3784392.html

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