Assessment Letter to the Editor

Computer-Adaptive Assessment Can Serve Differing Purposes

August 05, 2013 1 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

To the Editor:

I read with interest the article “Adaptive Testing Gains Momentum, Prompts Worries” (July 10, 2013). All who publish computer-adaptive assessments should applaud legislative efforts to include computer-adaptive testing, or CAT, in federal assessment programs. However, I wish to address the concerns cited in the article about whether test items in such assessments should be constrained by grade level.

The article failed to highlight an essential point: Not all CATs are designed for the same educational purposes. A focus on grade level may be appropriate for federally mandated accountability testing—the summative tests discussed in the article. When the purpose is to discover the level at which a student is performing (potentially above or below grade), however, and whether that student is growing academically, the test design will need to be substantially different.

To provide instructionally useful information to students, teachers, and administrators, all students’ achievement levels must be measured with equivalent precision, wherever they reside on the achievement continuum. Information from assessments designed to inform learning can be directly translated into differentiated instruction that gives each child the opportunity to succeed.

Based on the vision sketched in the article, one could ask whether instruction should be merely standards-based rather than student-centric, and whether the only metric that matters is if students are proficient at grade level, not that they are actually growing.

With classroom time at a premium, schools need an assessment program that balances teachers’ needs for actionable information with federal accountability requirements. Computer-adaptive testing can play a pivotal role in this, and all students and teachers in the country stand to benefit.

Raymond Yeagley

Vice President

Chief Academic Officer

Northwest Evaluation Association

Portland, Ore.

A version of this article appeared in the August 07, 2013 edition of Education Week as Computer-Adaptive Assessment Can Serve Differing Purposes


Jobs Virtual Career Fair for Teachers and K-12 Staff
Find teaching jobs and other jobs in K-12 education at the EdWeek Top School Jobs virtual career fair.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Teaching Webinar
Teacher Perspectives: What is the Future of Virtual Education?
Hear from practicing educators on how virtual and hybrid options offer more flexibility and best practices for administrative support.
Content provided by Class
Reading & Literacy Webinar How Background Knowledge Fits Into the ‘Science of Reading’ 
Join our webinar to learn research-backed strategies for enhancing reading comprehension and building cultural responsiveness in the classroom.

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Assessment A Huge Publisher and a Big Testing Company Are Teaming Up. What This Means for Educators
Four key questions to consider about how the pairing of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt and NWEA might affect educators.
3 min read
Students testing.
Assessment Spotlight Spotlight on Assessment
This Spotlight will help you examine updated testing guidance from the U.S. Dept. of Ed, analyze college-placement test scores, and more.

Assessment Opinion We Are More Than Our Grades: A Student's Perspective
Students have come to believe that their GPA and test scores are the ultimate reflection of their self-worth, writes a college senior.
Bailey Striepling
3 min read
Conceptual illustration of Students emerging from a field of giant discarded letter grades.
Vanessa Solis/Education Week and iStock/Getty Images
Assessment Letter to the Editor Grading for Growth Through Competency-Based Education
Competency-based education can better prepare today's children for tomorrow's challenges, writes this letter to the editor.
1 min read
Illustration of an open laptop receiving an email.