Wednesday, February 11, 2015

TABE Adaptive Testing at Sorenson's Ranch School

One of the principal aims of the accreditation process is identifying with some clarity the strengths and weaknesses of the school being evaluated for accreditation. Areas of strength are identified as “powerful practices” and commended in the final report. Areas needing improvement are also identified so that efforts toward school improvement can be focused and effective. Corrective measures aimed at improvement in those areas must be addressed in a report to the accreditation commission via AdvancED twenty four months after the date of the school evaluation. The primary area of focus for Sorenson’s Ranch School during this accreditation cycle is the establishment of a comprehensive assessment system which will allow us to quantify, to a much greater degree than we ever have, the progress that students make academically while they are with us. As one component of this goal, we have instituted semi-annual testing of the entire student body using TABE Adaptive. TABE stands for Test of Adult Basic Education. For years TABE has been a very reliable and widely used instrument for assessing academic achievement in adult education programs across the nation. Due to increased demand for a reliable test that could be used for students aged twelve to eighteen, the developers of TABE, McGraw-Hill, normed a version of the test for use with this younger population. In addition, the test was formatted for administration on-line, and TABE Adaptive was born. The word “adaptive” in the title indicates that the on-line test adjusts future questions based on the responses given by the student. For example, if a student misses two questions in a row, the testing software will make next question easier. If a student continues to get correct answers, the software will increase the difficulty of the ensuing questions until the student answers incorrectly. Through this process of making the questions harder or easier based on student performance, the grade level equivalent of the test subject can be more accurately determined than was ever possible with a paper-and-pencil test. TABE Adaptive results are given as a scaled score and as a grade equivalent (GE) score. Scaled scores are useful for comparison to previous and subsequent test administrations, but do not mean much in isolation. GE scores are also useful for comparison, but because they indicate a grade level, they are also instructive when used alone. For example, a student may earn a GE score of 9.2 which indicates that the student’s performance is equal to what would be expected from an average student in the second month of the ninth grade. Students are tested on reading, language usage, mathematics computation, and applied mathematics. A score is computed for each subtest, and a composite score is computed for total math and the entire battery. The bottom line for SRS is that we now have a highly accurate way to determine the academic performance of our students when they arrive and at sixth month intervals while they attend our school. New arrivals are given TABE Adaptive within about a month of their arrival and are then tested with the rest of the students every March and September until they discharge from our facility. We will use the data generated from testing to adjust our curriculum and teaching practices to better serve our students’ needs.

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