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New Era of Testing Begins May 1, 2015

Historic Downtown, Jersey City
New Era of Testing Begins, Jersey City, New Jersey

From JEI Newsletter

This year, millions of students in grades 3 and up in more than 30 states will be taking the next-generation assessments.These tests are aligned to the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). The Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) and Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Career (PARCC) are state-led consortiums that provide the assessments.Both are computer-based tests and are untimed.The purpose of these tests is to provide accurate information to teachers and educators so that they can improve instructions to help students succeed regardless of their abilities or disabilities.

One of the key advantages of the computer-based testing is that the computer program adjusts the difficulty of questions based on student responses throughout the assessment, like that of the American College Test (ACT).For example, in the SBAC, when a student answers a question correctly he/she will receive a more challenging item.But when one gives an incorrect answer, it will generate an easier question. As the student is taking the assessment, the program will adapt to the students’ answers and present an individually tailored set of questions and quickly identify which skills students have mastered. This on-going approach is a significant improvement over the traditional paper-and-pencil assessments because they provide more accurate scores for all students.The assessments will allow virtually all students to demonstrate what they know and what they can do.

Another advantage of computerized assessments is that it allows teachers, principals, and parents/guardians to receive results in a matter of weeks instead of months. Teachers can then use the information to improve performances by following up with more targeted instruction.Of course, there are some issues with implementation.First, schools will need enough desktops or tablets for all students to take the test.Another concern is the fact that the testing will be computer-based, and therefore, students will need to be proficient in typing skills as they will need to type their responses in the writing section.

For the computerized testing, there are mainly three categories of resources to meet the needs of all students. There are embedded and non-embedded tools included in the testing platform. The first category is the set of Universal Accessibility Tools, which includes the digital notepad and scratch paper.The second category is a designated support like that of a pop-up glossary.This support will be made available to students who are in need and where the need has been identified by school personnel who are familiar with each student’s needs and testing resources. The last category falls under accommodations for those students who have a documented Individualized Education Program (IEP) or a 504 plan. These tools include Braille for the blind and closed captioning for the hearing impaired among some other disabilities.

Undoubtedly, education in the future needs to evolve and incorporate the technology for more efficient delivery of contents as well as assessments. Not only will students need to adapt to the new format of adjustments, but also need to master more challenging skills such as critical-thinking, analytical writing, and problem solving – the set of skills required for careers in the 21st century.