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Official: Online tests are best indicator

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FRANK J. SCHULTZ
January 13, 2008
— Online tests, coupled with a different way of reporting the results, would give a more accurate picture of how well students are learning, said the Janesville School District’s testing coordinator.

The current state testing system will red-flag schools that have too many students who aren’t learning at the required levels. But the system doesn’t track individual students and groups of students, said Ruth Robinson.


A system that uses something called a “growth model” could give credit to a school that has many students testing below the accepted standards but nevertheless has shown strong growth.


Not only that, the growth model system could predict when students would catch up, Robinson said.


The current system will count the numbers of students who are performing at a high level, but a growth model system would hold a school accountable for not challenging those students, Robinson said.


“Every child deserves to learn something new every day,” Robinson said.


Of course, teachers can tell from their own experience when a child is high-achieving but needs more of a challenge.


“But there’s no accountability to say for sure,” Robinson said.


Without accountability through the state’s testing system, educators might not feel pressure to challenge students who need the challenge, Robinson said. And they won’t get the credit for improving students’ learning in cases where those students haven’t yet caught up to acceptable levels.


As for online testing, it might make for better test-takers.


Robinson said a thick test booklet can intimidate students.


“They feel defeated even before they start,” she said.


But an online test is just one question at a time.



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