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Lawrence students working with KU in development of assessment system

Friday, August 24, 2012
A public school student tries out the computer interface CETE is developing.

Work is under way to see how students with significant cognitive disabilities interact with the computer assessment system being developed for them by the Center for Educational Testing and Evaluation (CETE) at the University of Kansas.

Recently CETE staff started conducting one-on-one sessions known as observational labs with elementary through high school students from Lawrence public schools. During each observational lab, a student completes about 10 math and 10 English language arts sample test questions on a computer, while staff observe and video record, which allows for further study of student responses.

“Until now, it has not been common practice to formally assess students with significant observational disabilities using a computer, and these observational labs will help us see how students interact with the DLM assessment system we’re creating,” said Patti Whetstone, one of two CETE research associates conducting the labs. “We want to make sure that the system we create has an accessible and engaging interface.”

Observational labs are just one phase in CETE’s development of the Dynamic Learning Maps Alternate Assessment, which is for the one percent of the K-12 student population with significant cognitive disabilities set to be implemented during the 2014-2015 school year. DLM is just one portion of the Kansas Interactive Testing Engine (KITE), a computer-based platform CETE is developing to replace its current test delivery and management system. The development of KITE continues CETE’s track record of developing innovative, large-scale, computer-based assessments.

Each lab lasts from 30 to 60 minutes, and Whetstone expects about 15 to 20 labs to take place before the fall in video-equipped rooms on campus, with the goal of gathering student feedback on the usability of the interface.

Additional labs tentatively planned for the fall and winter will take place in the schools and will focus on how students respond to different types of test questions, computer adaptations and accommodations, and how assistive technology and alternative augmentative communication devices work with the interface.

“Our goal is to create this interface and then continually improve it so we can accommodate the independence needs of a larger variety of students within the population of students with significant cognitive disabilities,” said Julie Shaftel, CETE research associate conducting the labs. “The ultimate goal of the DLM assessment system is to allow students with significant cognitive disabilities to be independent. Teacher support should always be available to these students, but the ultimate goal is that the assessment system will be so customizable that most students in this population will be able to respond to assessment questions online independently.”

The Dynamic Learning Maps Alternate Assessment System is funded through a $22 million grant—the largest in KU history—awarded by the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs in late 2010. CETE leads the 13-state consortium of state departments of education in charge of creating a computer-based, alternate assessment for students with significant cognitive disabilities for whom, even with accommodations, standardized state assessments are inappropriate. Students with significant cognitive disabilities participate in alternate assessments in order to measure and account for their educational progress.

CETE is a nationally recognized research center specializing in large-scale assessment and online test delivery systems. For more than 30 years, CETE has developed cutting-edge, large-scale testing programs and technology tools, including the Kansas Assessment Program, Dynamic Learning Maps, KWIET writing tool, and Adaptive Reading Motivation Measures.

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