A standardized testing system, addressed towards K-12 education is no simple task. Wouldn't it be cool if we got rid of pen and paper tests across schools? Isn't the basic premise of testing a group of diverse students on the same exam flawed? Each student has his own level of concentration, learning patterns, memory power, special interests, natural intuition etc and expecting a whole grade of students to reach the same level of curriculum proficiency is unreasonable. Is it fair to compare a student who is weak in Spanish to someone whose native language is Spanish? Or to compare the math scores of a student with special interest in sports to a student who loves math! We need computer adaptive tests in schools, tests that adapt to each students unique ability. Tests that can be given again and again, that do not just capture the final score but the student's progress across the school year. Tests that are neither easy nor tough, that will appeal to the math wiz and will be sufficient for the rest.
More importantly, standardization allows schools to compare the performance of their students with the students across the country. This is crucial as it allows principals and administrators to accurately judge the performance of not just students but also their teachers! Teaching is undoubtedly one of the most important jobs in the world and a standardized adaptive system can only help in improving teaching quality. So how can computer adaptive tests help in bringing uniformity when each school district has its own curriculum? This is a complex problem, and teachers, education psychologists, child psychologists have to work together to come up with a solution. In the meanwhile, simply adopting adaptive tests in each school district will be a big step forward.
Technology is making big strides in higher education (coursera for example), and it is about time its used effectively in the K-12 education system. Technology can provide tools that can help identify children with reading difficulties, that can help monitor the progress of students suffering from ADHD, that can challenge bright students to their full potential and give a reliable platform for school managers,authorities to compare and monitor the performance of their teaching staff.
Some novel examples of how technology is helping kids learn are:
- A project that I am personally involved in , FAST. The Formative Assessment System for Teachers (FAST) is a suite of highly efficient assessment tools designed for screening, progress monitoring, and program evaluation as part of a Response to Intervention (RtI) model of service delivery.
- CogCubed creates games and models player behavior. These cognitive games can be used by clinicians, consumers, researchers and developers.
- storysmart is a new suite of apps that provide both a recreational and therapeutic activity for elementary-school aged children and are designed to help them develop social communication, social cognition, critical thinking and narrative skills.
- Pearson School : Core Curriculum products, learning management system.