LAWRENCE — The Center for Educational Testing and Evaluation at the University of Kansas, in partnership with the Kansas State Department of Education, has announced changes to the Kansas Interim Assessments for the 2011-12 school year.
As part of the Kansas State Assessment Program — the comprehensive assessment system Kansas schools use to determine whether a student learns the intended curriculum — the year-old Kansas Interim Assessments are multiple-choice tests students can take several times during the school year to help teachers measure and monitor students’ progress in certain subjects.
Beginning in late September when the first seven-week interim test window begins, the Kansas Interim Assessments will, for the first time, include mathematics tests in high school and reading tests for grades 3-5. This is an expansion from last year when interim tests were only available in mathematics for grades 3-8.
In response to teacher requests, the interim assessments have also been shortened, with up to 30 percent fewer questions per test. Each interim assessment now contains two parts; students will receive a more or less challenging second part based on their response to the first part. Shorter assessments should improve student engagement and decrease student frustration during test taking. The Center’s research has shown that the shorter interim assessments produce scores with reliability nearly the same as the longer assessments used last year.
The third and final upgrade to the Kansas Interim Assessments, which are administered by using online assessment software at the Center’s website, is a software enhancement that should make it easier for teachers to administer the tests in more than one sitting.
“The new enhancements in the Kansas Interim Assessment perfectly align with KSDE’s goal of creating a balanced and coherent system that makes assessments more a part of the instructional process and less an event-in-time for students,” said Tom Foster, director of Career, Standards and Assessment Services at the Kansas State Department of Education. “Unlike end-of-the-year tests, interim assessments occur periodically during the school year when instructional adjustments can still be made to impact student learning.
Additional expansion of the interim assessments is underway, with the Center developing reading tests for grades 6-8, which should be available by the 2012-2013 school year.
Background on the Kansas State Assessment Program
The Kansas State Assessment Program is the comprehensive testing system, including a cohesive array of student achievement assessment instruments, procedures and practices that encompass tools such as formative, interim and summative (end-of-year) assessments. The latter is known as high-stakes testing because it is used to determine if schools have made adequate yearly progress. Schools not making adequate yearly progress for multiple years can be sanctioned by a state's board of education.
Whereas summative assessments represent the culmination of a student’s experience in a grade or course and are administered once at the end of the school year, interim assessments show whether a student’s learning is on track to meet educational goals and can be administered at three different times during the school year. And whereas summative tests are mandatory, the optional interim tests were created last year to provide teachers with more options to measure student progress throughout the school year, well before summative tests are taken.
“We found the Interim Assessments to be a very valuable resource and a great way to help our students to continue to achieve at high levels,” said Robert Mueller, curriculum director of Atchison Public Schools, which used the interim assessments during their 2010-2011 inaugural school year.
Formative assessments, on the other hand, occur on more of an ongoing process taking place constantly throughout the school year. Teachers and students work together to actively assess students’ comprehension of related concepts or skills (a single lesson or small unit of study), and then teachers use this feedback to make appropriate changes to instruction day-by-day and week-by-week. Testing tools used in the formative-assessment process are not high stakes and are not reported to the federal government.
Coupling the interim assessments with the formative-assessment process has so far garnered positive results in the year since interim assessments began.
“Our teachers used the information from these (interim) assessments along with their common formative assessments to develop intervention groups that could target specific areas that each student needed,” Mueller said. “Being able to give the (interim) assessment multiple times throughout the year allowed us and our students to see their growth, which was extremely motivating for our students.”
For more than 30 years, the Center for Educational Testing and Evaluation has partnered with the Kansas State Department of Education to deliver a variety of assessment services under the Kansas State Assessment Program. The Center also offers online training resources, practice tests and tutorials to help prepare students and educators for the Kansas assessments.