Testing at the K-12 level is getting easier — and,many say, better — thanks to the increasingly pervasive presence of computers in classrooms.
“The Internet is transforming the way our teachers measure student performance,” says Bob Hamilton, director of evaluation, research and assessment for the 21,000-student Northshore School District in Bothell,WA. “We introduced Assess2Learn at the end of the 2001-2002 school year and it was voluntarily adopted by eight of our 20 elementary schools.
“Now the program is successfully being used in 16 of the 20 K-6 schools in the district,” he says,“with up to 90 percent of the teachers in the schools using the program to assess their students’ progress. It’s a real-time tool that gains acceptance as more teachers give it a try.”
The Assess2Learn program (www.assess2.com) is designed to help educators identify at-risk students at K-12 schools, assess students on skills defined by local standards of learning, review results of numerous automatically scored assessments, pinpoint specific skills for in-depth classroom instruction, and monitor student progress across multiple levels of performance. In fact, the program’s ability to provide students with just-intime remedies is a key motivator behind recently increased interest in such Internet-based programs as Riverside Publishing’s Assess2Learn.
“The [Assess2Learn] program lets us know where we are so we can decide how to proceed,”explains Christine Master, administrative director for the 370,000-student Miami-Dade County Public School district.“If some or most of the students are having trouble with a particular math concept, for example, this program informs the teacher almost in real-time.The teacher can use the information to modify his or her classroom practices.”
“We loaded the teacher and student info at the district level,”she adds,“so teachers could go online and administer the assessment tests without a lot of prep work. If it’s easy for teachers, it’s more likely to be used in the classroom as a tool to help the students. It’s not a ‘gotcha’ type of testing program that’s used for teacher evaluations, it’s strictly designed to be helpful to teachers.”
Administrators, too, are benefiting.“ Our superintendent wanted quarterly information on student progress,” recalls Rose Ann McKernan, director of research and accountability for the 87,000-student Albuquerque Public School district,“and in order to be able to document progress we needed a real-time, ongoing program that was efficient and easy to use.The superintendent — as well as teachers and administrators — can tap into the data for an overview of a grade’s progress, which gives the teacher the ability to devise and deliver remedies.”
The content and format includes modifiable short diagnostic tests or broad survey tests to measure student progress on specific subject areas.This helps compare students’ skills in reading, language arts, and mathematics to state and national standards.
The program offers each content area test in three separate forms and two test formats. Diagnostic tests include up to 32 item “testlets” that measure several objectives within a strand or substrand; survey tests are longer tests of the overall content in a subject area and are designed to provide broad coverage of curriculum objectives, with fewer items measuring ach — similar to a state accountability test. Assess2Learn currently offers 15 state-specific testlets with more in the pipeline, which brings numerous advantages to teachers and districts.“ A lot of our high school teachers use Assess2Learn as practice tests for our [state mandated] Exit-Competency tests,” agrees Albuquerque’s McKernan, adding that Assess2Learn is likely to become the mandatory assessment tool for the entire district.
“It’s making sense to move in that direction,” she adds.“It’s effective and easy to use, from the novice to the experienced computer user.And because it helps teachers make assessments quickly, it allows them more time to teach.”