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NCLB Outrages

Measuring Up to Standards

by Marilyn Deutsch

. . . Idaho has had its science standards in place since 2001. Carissa Miller, assessment program manager for the Idaho State Board of Education, says the state is not changing these standards in light of NCLB. But assessments are another matter.

The state has contracted with Northwest Evaluation Association (NWEA) to come up with a 64-question, computer-driven multiple-choice test.

State Science Coordinator Kevin Collins explains that a lot of work has gone into "filtering" the state standards and deciding which ones to test. Given that it takes a minimum of six questions to determine if a student has mastered an individual standard, Idaho will only be able to test 10 standards. Collins was given the gargantuan task of identifying those 10 "power standards" that were so important they had to be tested and that were used by NWEA to come up with a blueprint for the state assessments. Teams of Idaho teachers—representing "hundreds" of years of teaching experience—drafted questions on the power standards that will be used in the assessments, along with questions already in NWEA's item bank.

Idaho plans to test students two or three times a year. In the fall, they'll be given a "levels" test that works like this: If a student answers a question correctly, the computer will then ask the student a tougher question—and on and on—until the tester gets a good idea of the limits of the child's knowledge. In the spring, students will take a blended test with 40 questions that conform to NCLB reporting requirements and another 24 levels-type questions.

Miller says "performance-based tests" such as Oregon's work samples are expensive and difficult to do, and she questions the reliability of those assessments.

It's a "give and take," she says. Idaho educators think their computerized multiple-choice test will give teachers information they need on each child's progress quickly, and teachers can use the results prescriptively to guide instruction.

— Marilyn Deutsch
NorthWest Education


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