Though many education leaders and teachers are enthusiastic about Utah's move to computer-adaptive testing, some parents have arrived at informational meetings concerned. Some are skeptical partly because questions will be based on Common Core standards, adopted by Utah and most other states to establish the concepts students should learn in each grade. Curriculum is left to teachers.
Here are some of the most common worries about the new testing:
Q: Will my child's results or information be shared with the federal government?
A: No, the state won't share individual data, said Judy Park, state associate superintendent. And the company providing and scoring the tests, American Institutes for Research (AIR), will use only student identifier numbers and will not have access to children's names. Recent changes to a federal privacy law known as FERPA will not affect this, she said.
Q: Why isn't Utah working with other states to develop computer-adaptive tests to save money?
A: Utah was once part of the Smarter-Balanced Assessment Consortium, a group of states that were working together to develop assessments based on Common Core standards with help from federal dollars. But some Utahns worried the state would lose local control. Partly in response to that, the state school board voted to withdraw from the consortium in August and seek proposals on its own. Utah received 13 proposals and accepted one from AIR, agreeing to pay it $39 million for a five-year contract.
Q: Who will develop the questions and make sure they reflect "Utah values"?
A: Utah educators and experts will develop the questions, and committees of Utah educators, experts and parents will then review them.
Q: Will my child's teacher be able to review questions before they're given?
A: No. To make sure no student is given an unfair advantage, teachers and parents cannot see the tests before they're administered, the same policy with previous tests. It's also unlikely parents and teachers will see questions after the tests are given because those questions wouldn't be usable again, and developing them is expensive.
Q: Is there proof these tests will be effective?
A: A number of Utah school districts have been using computer-adaptive tests as part of a state pilot program for years. Though they used tests designed by a different company than AIR, they reported success, Park said. AIR has also developed adaptive tests for other states, including Oregon.