Thursday, April 22, 2010

Is Adaptive Testing the Key Technology for 21st century education?

Many agree that one of the keys to improving education in the 21st century will be if we can harness the potential offered by technology to personalize learning. Paul E Peterson agrees wholeheartedly in his “Finding the Student’s ‘Price Point’” op ed column in Education Week. If this happens then Howard Gardner can justly claim a large degree of credit. Gardner has made the point for example that,

“So long as we insist on teaching all students the same subjects in the same way, progress will be incremental. But now for the first time it is possible to individualize education—to teach each person what he or she needs and wants to know in ways that are most comfortable and most efficient.”

A critical tool in advancing this cause according to Paul E Peterson will be adaptive assessment, which “can quickly identify a student’s reading, math, and science skills, and the curriculum can then be adapted to the student’s performance level.”

One example of the way adaptive testing has made a difference is New York City’s “School of One” tried the idea out last summer to great applause—Time magazine named it one of the top 50 inventions of the year. The program is now in operation in three middle schools.

The Florida Virtual School is now among the leading exponents of adaptive testing. It has helped that any high school in Florida has the “option of taking a course online, from the Florida Virtual School or in the classroom of the local high school. Success in either setting is recorded on the high school transcript and counts toward a diploma. State funding goes to the school from which the student took the course.”

Peterson is such a fan of adaptive testing that he would like to see the Obama adminstration get solidly behind it even to the point of using the $650 million Investing in Innovation ( 13 ) program to underwrite the approach.

We need more research on this but it is a good bet that this innovation will transform the way schools operate more than any other single innovation.

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