Utah to implement cutting-edge school testing systems developed at KU

LAWRENCE — An innovative new test delivery system developed by the Center for Educational Testing and Evaluation at the University of Kansas will be used for the first time to provide statewide assessments to students. The Utah State Office of Education will start using the Kansas Interactive Testing Engine, known as KITE, developed by the center for delivery of its alternative assessments in April 2012.

KITE is the latest version of a computer-based assessment system developed by the center, which continues its track record of being on the cutting edge of large-scale, computer-based assessments.

“This is a major step forward in serving the population of students with disabilities,” said John Jesse, director of assessment and accountability with the Utah State Office of Education. “It’s a great opportunity for teachers to engage with this technology interface and to be able to give feedback because it’s still in the development stage.”

As part of the process, teachers can provide feedback about KITE in order for the center to make changes before KITE is used on a larger scale in Kansas and other states during the next few years.

“It’s a big thing to move someone from paper-based to computer-based tests, and this is an intermediate step in a low-risk environment that gives teachers the opportunity to ease into the online world,” Jesse said, noting that using KITE marks the first time Utah’s alternate assessments will be computer-based. “We’ve tested the software, and we’re very confident it will be a successful deployment.”

Utah will use the test-delivery function of KITE to deliver alternative assessments to the approximately 3,000 students with significant cognitive disabilities who do not take the general assessment. Utah’s Alternate Assessment is designed to assess the achievement of students in grades three through 12 in English language arts and math, and grades four through 12 in science, with significant cognitive disabilities.

Beyond delivering alternative assessments, KITE also has the potential to provide general assessments to millions of students.

“For Utah to use KITE is a step along the path to producing the KITE system, a system that is both robust enough to deliver all K-12 state assessments in all 50 states and financially feasible for states to deliver it during these tough economic times,” said Neal Kingston, director of the Center for Educational Testing and Evaluation. “Based on open source components, KITE is inexpensive for states to use. Because we use agile development methods, KITE has rapid development cycles and thus we add enhancements and new features regularly.”

The development of KITE is a continuation of the center’s work in innovative, computer-based testing. For six years, the center has used its first computer-based, large-scale testing system — Kansas Computerized Assessments — to deliver more than 4 million summative, interim and formative test sessions a year to K-12 students in Kansas. During the 2010-11 school year, 99.7 percent of Kansas students took the computer-based assessments. But Kansas Computerized Assessments are nearing the end of their life cycle, and technology has advanced since its creation. So more than a year ago the center began development of the next-generation KITE system, which has been designed to work as a secure thin client (using a web browser instead of installed software) on desktops, laptops and mobile devices.

KITE incorporates the latest developments in computer technology, delivers a variety of test item types and leverages web 2.0 capabilities. KITE is operational, but new features will be added in the future, including the ability for use on mobile platforms such as iPads.

“KITE is highly secure, is easier for schools to manage and is based on ongoing research in usability, universal design and fairness,” Kingston said.

In addition to Utah, KITE is also currently being used to deliver pilot tests for the Adaptive Reading Motivation Measures, a multi-state research project on students’ reading motivation. It is also planned for use in pilot testing of the Career Pathways Assessment System and the Dynamic Learning Maps Alternate Assessment System in the fall. KITE will also be used for high-stakes summative testing in Kansas next year.

For more than 30 years, the Center for Educational Testing and Evaluation 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. It has partnered with the Kansas State Department of Education to deliver a variety of assessment services under the Kansas Assessment Program, the comprehensive assessment system Kansas schools use to determine whether a student learns the intended curriculum. The center also offers online training resources, practice tests and tutorials to help prepare students and educators for the Kansas assessments.

Thu, 03/29/2012


Mike Krings

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