Managing the Data

Most states are already harnessing the power of technology to manage assessment data and to link it with other student information. For example, by providing every student in the state with a unique identification number (as many states are now doing), states can use data analysis programs to view assessment data in multiple ways. Such programs allow educators not only to look at overall achievement and the accomplishments of individual students, but also to disaggregate the information by teacher, by race, by poverty status, and by students with disabilities and those who are learning English. The performance of students who have participated in particular instructional programs can be captured and results can be linked to such factors as the length of time in the school or course-taking patterns. Technology makes these types of analysis easier and more readily available than in the past.

Technology provides an efficient means of storing, managing, and reporting results from multiple assessment opportunities so they can be retrieved, combined, and reported in a cost-effective manner. It also makes possible the creation of databases of student work that can be used by teachers, students, and parents as a guide to expectations for student achievement. These examples of student work, if linked to specific performance levels as described by the state academic achievement standards, could facilitate students’ involvement in their own assessment by allowing them to compare their performance with acceptable performance—an important aspect of learning with understanding.

Support for Assessment Development

Many states and school districts have created item banks linked to state standards and made them accessible to teachers and others for use in classroom or district assessment activities. The American Association for the Advancement of Science is actively engaged in developing an item bank of science items that are linked to the Benchmarks for Science Literacy and the maps contained in the Atlas for Science Literacy. It is also their intention to make these items available to states and researchers through an online delivery system linked to the maps. Item banks are useful tools for teachers and others, but care must be taken to ensure that items drawn from the banks are aligned with state standards and goals. The wide variety among states complicates the sharing of item banks (see Quellmalz and Moody, 2004, for a discussion of some issues involved in operating an item bank).

In sum, the committee found that technology holds great promise for improving science assessment, but further developments in its applications to assessment will be required before that potential can be realized. We urge all concerned to continue to pursue promising strategies.

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