The further expansion of computer-adaptive testing is resulting in shorter Standards of Learning (SOL) reading and mathematics tests for nearly 300,000 additional elementary and middle school students this spring. In addition, a new version of the commonwealth’s test-delivery system is allowing students to take SOL tests on a wider array of devices, including iPads and Chromebooks.
“This upgrade simplifies the logistics of SOL testing for many schools because principals and testing coordinators don’t have to move hundreds of students through a limited number of computer labs,” Superintendent of Public Instruction Steven R. Staples said. “Students can test in their classrooms with devices they’ve used all year. And the ability to assess more students in less time decreases the amount of instructional time lost to testing.”
While eighth graders and some high school students took SOL writing tests in March, the main spring testing window opened on April 10. Students in the western part of the state typically test in April and May, while students in central and eastern Virginia test in May and June.
The 2016-2017 school year is the third of a four-year phase-in of adaptive testing — a format that allows for shorter tests — in grades 3-8. This spring, all math tests in grades 3-8 are computer adaptive (with the exceptions of end-of-course algebra and geometry tests), and adaptive reading tests are being introduced in grades 3-5. The phase-in will be complete with the introduction of adaptive reading tests in grades 6-8 during the 2017-2018 school year.
Adaptive tests begin with a question or problem of moderate difficulty. If a student answers the item correctly, the computer selects a slightly more challenging problem as the next item. Conversely, an incorrect response results in the selection of a slightly less difficult item. Students’ scores are determined by the number of questions answered correctly and the relative difficulty of the correctly answered items.
“Adaptive testing allows us to accurately measure proficiency and growth with fewer test items and that means significantly shorter testing times for most students,” Staples said.
The adaptive reading tests that third and fourth graders are taking this spring have 33 items, 14 fewer than the 47-item tests students took last year. The new adaptive fifth-grade reading SOL also has 33 items, 17 fewer than last year’s non-adaptive version.
Also new this year are 39-item adaptive math tests in grades 4-5, which replace the 60-item math SOLs fourth and fifth graders took last year.
Computer-adaptive SOL testing was first introduced during 2014-2015, with the debut of an adaptive version of the sixth-grade math test. Computer-adaptive versions of the grade-3, grade-7 and grade-8 math tests were introduced in 2015-2016.
-Submitted by Charles Pyle