Assessment Will Advance When It Moves Into the Background

Digital Learning Now is a framework for state education policy for the digital age.   Key to quality is Element #8, Assessment and Accountability.
On assessment, DLN suggests that states should administer testing online:

Administering tests digitally has multiple benefits. Tests can be administered and scored quickly and efficiently. Computerized scoring provides the opportunity for a cost effective method to create better tests beyond multiple choice, including simulations and constructed responses. Getting the result of tests faster can improve instruction as well as expedite rewards and consequences, which can strengthen accountability for learning.

The two state consortia (SBAC and PARCC) will guide most states to predominantly online testing systems by 2014.
DLN also suggests that states should ensure that schools have access to a digital formative assessment system—an interesting challenge.  Adaptive tests can be made available inexpensively and relatively unobtrusively (e.g., NWEA MAP) and that would provide comparable statewide data.
However, the ideal would be aligned instructional systems with embedded assessment.  With digital learning, we can imagine most assessment moving to the background and becoming integrated with learning challenges—an essay in response to a text, a science experiment, or a game score.  The flood of keystroke data featuring feedback from embedded assessments will soon make numerous entries in every student’s standards-based gradebook.
We’ll need to invent our way out of the Cost-Comparability Conundrum, our reliance on cheap standardized tests given under the same conditions.  The datasets from different aligned instructional systems will provide equally valid measures of student achievement compared to standards.  We’ll be able to compare achievement and growth with sufficient comparability despite the fact that students took none of the same assessments.
The next generation of state longitudinal data systems (DQC 2.0) will deal with comparability of big diverse datasets and will also improve the ability of state authorizers to:

  • Evaluates the quality of content and courses based on student learning data.
  • Support evaluation of the effectiveness of teacher teams based, in part, on student learning data.
  • Hold schools and providers accountable for achievement and growth.

Gov Bob Wise describes the role of assessment in high quality digital learning in this video. DLN summarizes the data-rich future state:

Learning management systems, digital curriculum, and online summative and formative assessments have the distinctive capability of collecting real-time data on the progress of each student against learning objectives. Instant feedback for students and personalized analytics for teachers provide the support for continuous improvement and competency-based progress.

The big advance of this decade will be when student keystrokes provide instant feedback and build a smart profiles that customize the learning pathway of every student.

Tom Vander Ark

Tom Vander Ark is the CEO of Getting Smart. He has written or co-authored more than 50 books and papers including Getting Smart, Smart Cities, Smart Parents, Better Together, The Power of Place and Difference Making. He served as a public school superintendent and the first Executive Director of Education for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

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