Online Adaptive Testing Pilot Hits Schools Nationwide

School districts around the country are taking part in a limited pilot that seeks to replace their state's version of standardized achievement exams with an online-only test to assess students fully by adapting questions based on their skill level.

Students at 700 Oakland County, Michigan schools are taking part in the exam program which will offer each test-taker tougher questions if they're performing well and let up in the difficulty if the student is struggling. In total, more than 1 million students from around the country will be participating.

The goal, educators say, is to better define a student's achievement level so instruction can be adjusted.

Michigan is working with about two dozen states to develop and pilot the test that will replace the Michigan Education Assessment Program (MEAP) by the 2014-15 school year.

The spring pilot will be conducted in grades three through 11 in English language arts/literacy and mathematics.

The test is not fully ready for implementation this year. The students in the pilot will simply be trying out the test-taking software this time around for ease of use and comprehension. The adaptive component won't be made available to them quite yet nor will they be receiving any exam grades.

This round of testing is allowing the designers to gather data on the students and will allow them to tweak the exam prior to its official launch in 2014 and will be subsequently administered every spring.

Because the exam will be administered fully online, it will benefit educators by allowing them to receive the final grades a mere 48 hours after it's been administered. This give schools a lot of information to work with as well as identify struggling students quickly giving educators an opportunity to address their difficulties.

If the pilot is successful, it is anticipated that the new exam will replace the Michigan Education Assessment Program test which the students currently take every fall but for which the results don't come back until spring.

State educators are excited about the pilot opportunity.

"This will provide the state with invaluable information on technology readiness to support moving to (an) online, computer-adaptive assessment, as well as give many Michigan students and educators a direct experience with Smarter Balanced items," said Vince Dean, director of the office of standards and assessments with the Michigan Department of Education.

Mary Beth Fitzpatrick, an assistant superintendent of assessments in Berkley School District, said she is excited by the chance to participate in the pilot.

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