Rep. Petri's Assessment Accuracy and Improvement Act, a bill with 32 bipartisan cosponsors, would allow states to use "computer adaptive" tests to fulfill their NCLB testing requirements. The provisions of Petri's bill were included as part of the Student Success Act, introduced by Rep. John Kline, Chairman of the House Education and Workforce Committee.
Petri is a senior member of the Committee.
With adaptive tests taken on computers, the questions are adjusted to zero in on the student's level of competence. If a student answers a question correctly, the computer then presents a question of increased difficulty. If the student answers incorrectly, the next question will be easier.
"With current testing on paper, you pretty much learn whether or not a student is mastering the material at the proper grade level. But with adaptive testing, you can find out how much ahead or behind the student is, which areas he or she is particularly strong or weak in, and by how much. And the results are instantly available," Petri said.
Currently, when fulfilling NCLB requirements, the U.S. Education Department will accept adaptive tests only when they test solely within the student's grade level. Petri's bill would allow tests to ask questions appropriate to other grade levels if the student taking the test is proving to be sufficiently ahead or behind of his or her grade's requirements.
Even though the most effective adaptive tests do not satisfy NCLB requirements, school districts nationally, and many in Petri's congressional district, are already "speaking with their wallets" by spending scarce resources to use adaptive tests, such as the Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) developed by the non-profit Northwest Evaluation Association, because they provide valuable information that the federally mandated assessment does not. Educators report that the immediate, personalized results are valuable in motivating and engaging students to do better.
In 2009, the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction (DPI) announced plans to change a nearly two-decades-old statewide test used to comply with the federal No Child Left Behind (NCLB) law. That assessment, the Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts Examinations (WKCE), will be phased out as new assessments at the elementary and secondary levels are developed.
These new assessments will likely be computer adaptive, allowing for immediate and detailed information about individual students' progress. The provisions included by Rep. Petri in the Student Success Act would give Wisconsin the flexibility to use these new assessments to their full potential.