Put Your Tests to the Test

It's assessment season and I just can't seem to get them out of my mind. Of course, that could be the 8 hours I spent this weekend watching scoring DVDs and the countless hours that still lie ahead....

One of the things that many of our districts have been talking about and trying to create are formative assessments. We've looked at vendors that have test banks already made and ones that will load the test questions we make. Bottom line - formative assessments are only as good as the questions.

I learned how to write test questions from NYSED. Each year in Social Studies, they put out a call for expertise inviting teachers to come and receive training in developing test items for the NYS assessments and Regents examinations. (The dates for this year can be found here.)It was a pretty rich experience for me and for the first time, I learned about test constructs and proper writing of item distractors. I was hooked!!

A recent article in T.H.E. Journal by Nora V. Odendahl helped summarize some of what I learned nicely. She begins with a fault question and takes the leader through the many things that make multiple choice questions (and frankly many other types) poor items. Here are some questions to ask when assessing test items:

1. Do the items assess students' relevant skills and knowledge?
2. What requirements for ensuring the quality and integrity of the items are found in the documented procedures? (Nice list included here)
3. Do the items represent the desired levels of difficulty and cognitive skill?
4. Is statistical data being used to improve the quality of the items and the formative assessments?


This is a nice two-page article that I'll be sure to share at upcoming assessment workshops! How do your tests measure up?

1 comment:

Jane L. said...

Podcasts, hmmm? Sounds good. Are you podcasting your PD sessions or student work? I finally got an iPod for the holidays, and have played with language podcourses and radio podcasts. I'd like to know more about this powerful tool and how you are using it.