Let's Talk Assessments
Frank Gerdeman is the Assistant Director of the Integrated Support for Learning – Secondary & Adult Division at the Vermont Agency of Education (AOE). In this role, he serves as the State Director of Adult Education and is involved with a number of projects, including Smarter Balanced implementation. Prior to joining the AOE he spent a number years as a teacher and coordinator of adult education services in Chittenden County.
One of the aspects of the new Smarter Balanced Assessment that has excited me is the role it will play in a robust, balanced and integrated education system designed to better serve all Vermont students. Part of this is the move from a strictly summative assessment tool used for accountability purposes (like NECAP – the former state assessment in math and reading/writing) to an assessment system. A system that not only measures student progress/growth against the new Common Core State Standards (CCSS) but also provides educators valuable information on a student’s strengths and gaps related to those standards.
One of the ways this will be accomplished is by taking advantage of the technological innovations to create a better assessment product. Paper-pencil tests relied on a fixed form where students saw the same questions (or slight variations of the same questions) based on grade level. That is, every student in grade seven had the same set of grade seven questions regardless of their actual ability. In the Smarter Balanced system, the summative tests utilize computer adaptive testing (CAT) which means that the relative difficulty of a question is determined by a student’s previous responses. You can think of this as a non-standardized, standards-based assessment. In addition, CAT allows the assessment to focus on creating a much more precise “snapshot” of a student’s skills.
There is a tremendous amount of discussion about and around this new system and how adults will use the results for everything from teacher evaluation to school funding. For me, that would be a grave misuse of what is, in fact, the incredible opportunity this system offers us to provide teachers, students and parents the information they need to ensure every student is able to realize her/his full potential.
Page Last Updated on December 4, 2014