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Legislative Notes: Pilot program could help improve testing in schools
by REP. BRAD WILSON | Special to the Clipper
Feb 19, 2012 | 2197 views | 0 0 comments | 11 11 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Rep. Brad Wilson
Rep. Brad Wilson
When I was in school, tests were taken with paper and pencil. Once completed, it might take a few weeks for the teacher to grade the stack of tests and then analyze the results. The tests would be static and aimed at the determining the average range of students that had mastered the subject matter. Even the current use of scantron testing, which cuts the grading time significantly, still relies on the same theory of determining average student subject mastery.

A new dawn of computer adaptive testing is upon us and it could radically change and improve testing in our public schools. The State has been running a pilot project in several districts on this new testing system and the results have been so impressive the Legislature and the State School Board believe this program needs to be rolled out to all of our schools.

The basic idea of CAT testing is that test items are selected by the computer to individually match the ability level of each student. The test is essentially “adapting” the difficulty level of each question on the test depending on the students answer to the previous question. The real-time results can better gauge the student’s individual growth and knowledge than any type of testing previously available. The results in the pilot program districts have shown dramatic learning gains for all students over the course of the year as compared to those achieved with traditional testing

As parents, we know how important it is that our children are placed in appropriate skill levels within their class. A struggling student can be easily overwhelmed and quickly fall way behind his or her classmates if placed in a group that is working on subjects beyond the student’s comprehension.

Likewise, an advanced learner can become bored and disruptive if not challenged with new material. The traditional testing was limited in terms of the data gathered. It couldn’t provide teachers and parents with a true assessment of an individual student’s subject mastery.

This testing will give teachers much better tools so that school resources and teaching time can be more effectively deployed.

The move to computer adaptive testing is reflected in two bills this session. HB15 would implement the testing program statewide and provide $6.7 million in funding towards the program. SB 97 would provide $12 million in grants to school districts to purchase computer hardware for schools.

Brad Wilson represents House District 15 in Davis County. He is writing a series of articles during the annual legislative session about the happenings on Capitol Hill.

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