If you are an educator in one of the Smarter Balanced-Governing States, you may be hearing the term Computer-Adaptive Testing (CAT) thrown around quite a bit lately.
To best prepare for the coming adaptive Common Core assessments, schools and educators must have a sound understanding of how the tests function, what challenges CAT presents, and what they must do to optimize the benefits and advantages.
What is Computer-Adaptive Testing and what does it mean for my students?
Computer-Adaptive Testing, most commonly associated with the GRE exam and the Smarter Balanced Assessments, is derived from a massive bank of digital questions and prompts. The student takes the exam on a computer or electronic device, and his or her test path is determined by the success rate. If the student is doing well, the digital test uses an algorithm to adjust the difficulty and provide subsequent harder questions. If he or she is struggling, the test will once again adjust and pull less-difficult questions from its bank.
The knock on traditional pencil-and-paper tests is that they are typically geared to assess the mean or middle student, leaving out the peripheral students requiring remediation or acceleration. CATs adaptive ability claims to remedy this problem by challenging each and every student while eliminating the disengagement brought on by overly-difficult or trivial questions/prompts.
Dont get caught off your feet by Smarter Balanceds CAT assessments
Be aware, Smarter Balanceds CAT features require students to spend a substantial amount of time in front of a computer. Additionally, a recent UCLA study reports Smarter Balanced does, in fact, assess deeper understanding and higher-order thinking ability.
These notions may present doubt or apprehension in educators, but with the proper preparation and familiarity, schools can set themselves and their students up for success:
- Meet the Minimum Tech Requirements
Dont let technology shortfalls inhibit your students CAT assessment experience. Heres a couple great resources to help you find the needed information.
Common-Core Tech Requirements Outlined - edweek.org
Technology Requirements - smarterbalanced.org
- Provide Content and Resources that Mirror CAT Assessments
Familiarize your students with digital content and resources that offer adaptive interactive questions, prompts, and activities. Also, be sure students practice longer testing sessions at computers prior to the Smarter Balanced assessments.
- Promote Higher-Order Thinking and Deeper Understanding
Per Smarter Balanced and CCSS, students must demonstrate higher-order thinking skills to prove their college-readiness. This means teachers must also provide students with the examples and skills needed to prepare for the post K-12 world. .
- Share and Utilize Digital Data to Improve Learning
The digital analytical data available from CAT pre-tests and results will be abundant. Utilize the quicker, more effective data on a school-wide level to better prescribe the needed reinforcement and differentiation for each of your students.
How do Smarter Balanceds CAT features improve learning?
Now that you have some tips to help get ready for Smarter Balanced's CAT features, let's take a look at the advantages it will present for your students' learning and your school's efficiency.
- More Precise Assessment of Mastery and Understanding
CAT is able to give a better reading of a students learning level because students receive more questions in-line with their skill and understanding level. The focus is moved towards the students success and mastery level and away from the percentage of correct responses.
- Immediate Results and Shorter Test Periods
CAT requires students to complete less responses because the questions and prompts are adapted to the test takers success level. Also, CAT is administered and graded digitally, so the results are returned much quicker. This allows teachers to implement the needed curriculum and instruction updates faster and more efficiently.
- More Secure and Longer Shelf Life
Students cannot share notes on the playground or look over a classmate's shoulder for answers because they most likely didnt have same questions. Additionally, CAT questions and prompts do not need to be rewritten year-to-year like paper-and-pencil tests because of the high variance levels.