Assessment

South Dakota Aims To Put Online Assessment to the Test

By Michelle Galley — March 07, 2001 3 min read

Legislators in South Dakota approved a plan last week requiring students to take a series of tests linked directly to the state’s recently developed academic standards. And in a pioneering move, state education officials plan to implement the new mandate through assessments administered exclusively over the Internet.

If Republican Gov. William J. Janklow signs the measure, as he is expected to do, South Dakota would be poised to become the first state to give its tests solely online. The exams would start in the spring of next year, under a bill given final approval last week by the House of Representatives.

State school leaders around the nation have become increasingly interested in the prospect of administering tests online. Plans are under way in Virginia to start giving the state’s Standards of Learning exams to all high school students via the Internet in the spring of 2003. In Oregon, 17 high schools and 14 elementary schools were chosen last month to begin a pilot program of online testing.

“A number of states are looking into it, and a number of states are watching Virginia, Oregon, and South Dakota,” said Wayne H. Martin, the director of the state education assessment center at the Council of Chief State School Officers, based in Washington.

Trial Under Way

In South Dakota, pilot tests of the computer-testing program involving 10,000 students have been under way for a year, and the exams being used in that trial would become the prototypes for the statewide system. The state department of education has included $500,000 in its proposed budget for fiscal 2002 to cover the cost of the online testing for the coming year.

Because every classroom in South Dakota is wired with a high-speed connection to the Internet, the infrastructure for the testing program is in place.

“We’ve spent a lot of money and energy getting wired,” said Sen. Dan Sutton, a Democrat who sponsored the bill establishing the new state assessment system. The bill was approved in the House by a vote of 66-3 on Feb. 28, after having cleared the Senate 31-1 earlier in the month.

Currently, South Dakota students take the Stanford Achievement Test-9th Edition in grades 2, 4, and 8 and the Stanford Writing Assessment Program-3rd Edition in grades 5 and 9.

The new tests, called the Dakota Assessment of Content Standards, would be mandatory in grades 3, 6, and 10 in mathematics, science, reading, and language arts, but could be administered on a voluntary basis in grades 3-11.

Through a mandate from the state education department, schools that receive federal Title I money would be required to administer the new tests in grades 3-11. But the state has no plans to tie performance on the tests to high school graduation or promotion to the next grade, according to Mr. Sutton.

“My goal is not to use this as a penalty,” he said. “My goal is to help students grow academically and to help teachers.”

‘Taking the Temperature’

Last summer, South Dakota school districts were required to adopt a new set of state standards in language arts, math, science, and social studies. But many policymakers see the standards as lacking teeth because they are not the basis for the off-the-shelf exams that the state uses to assess student progress.

This legislation solves that problem, according to Ray Christensen, the state’s secretary of education and cultural affairs. “We’re taking the temperature on how we are doing on our content standards,” he said.

South Dakota’s education department contracted with Ed Vision, a computerized-testing company based in San Diego, to develop and administer the tests.

The company’s assessments, which have been used in the state’s pilot testing, are designed to adapt to students’ ability levels. For example, if a student performs well on a set of questions, the test automatically increases the level of difficulty.

The tests give educators more information about a student’s specific strengths and weaknesses than they receive from traditional paper-and-pencil tests, Mr. Christensen said.

Online testing systems can also address other problems associated with traditional tests, said Mr. Martin of the CCSSO. The logistics of shipping, conducting, and scoring such tests can be simplified when they are administered online, he suggested.

School officials in South Dakota see the planned testing system as a potentially useful accountability tool and educational resource, said Christie L. Johnson, the executive director of the School Administrators of South Dakota, which represents superintendents, principals, and other school administrators. “If it in fact works in reality as it sounds in theory, I think it can be a wonderful teaching tool,” she said.

Related Tags:

A version of this article appeared in the March 07, 2001 edition of Education Week as South Dakota Aims To Put Online Assessment to the Test

Events

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.
Sponsor
Professional Development Webinar
Building Leadership Excellence Through Instructional Coaching
Join this webinar for a discussion on instructional coaching and ways you can link your implement or build on your program.
Content provided by Whetstone Education/SchoolMint
Teaching Webinar Tips for Better Hybrid Learning: Ask the Experts What Works
Register and ask your questions about hybrid learning to our expert panel.
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.
Sponsor
Families & the Community Webinar
Family Engagement for Student Success With Dr. Karen Mapp
Register for this free webinar to learn how to empower and engage families for student success featuring Karen L. Mapp.
Content provided by Panorama Education & PowerMyLearning

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Washington Teacher Trainer - (WAVA)
Washington, United States
K12 Inc.
Strategic Account Manager
Portland, OR, US
Northwest Evaluation Association
President and CEO
Alexandria, Virginia
National Association of State Boards of Education
CCLC Program Site Director
Thornton, CO, US
Adams 12 Five Star Schools

Read Next

Assessment Biden's Testing Stance Leaves States Tough Choices. Some May Still Try to Avoid Exams
Whether to give tests in person this spring or even test students next school year instead, education leaders confront a complex path.
Flags decorate a space outside the secretary's office at the U.S. Department of Education in Washington.
Flags decorate a space outside the secretary's office at the U.S. Department of Education in Washington.
Jacquelyn Martin/AP
Assessment States Still Must Give Standardized Tests This Year, Biden Administration Announces
But the administration says it would allow states to give tests in the summer or use partial exams due to challenges related to COVID-19.
3 min read
Image of students taking a test.
smolaw11/iStock/Getty
Assessment Timing of Food Stamps Can Affect Students' Test Scores, Study Finds
Hungry students don't test as well, say researchers who found a link between food stamp disbursements and students' exam scores.
5 min read
A sign advertises a program that allows food stamp recipients to use their EBT cards to shop at a farmer's market in Topsham, Maine on March 17, 2017.
Food stamps can be used in some farmers' markets, as at this one in Topsham, Maine. New research shows a link between timing of the aid and student performance on key tests.
Robert F. Bukaty/AP
Assessment New Mexico Asks to Skip Student Testing Again This Year
State officials are seeking permission from federal officials to waive standardized testing for another year, citing the pandemic.
3 min read