I blog on topics that I encounter as I read the literature, talk with people, and think about ways to improve education. Thus, many different topics are covered. I try to select topics and do my writing in a manner that will have long term value to readers.
General Educational Development (GED®) and Online Testing
You are probably aware of the movement toward online assessment in education. The Common Core State Standards initiative includes a strong focus on Computerized Adaptive Testing (CAT). Learn more about CCSS at Moursund & Sylwester (2013).
The earliest Computer-Assisted Learning (CAL) systems included assessment features. In the very simplest CAL, learners answered T/F or multiple-choice questions. The computer provided feedback on correct and incorrect answers, and a cumulative record of a student’s performance.
It was easy to program such a system to make adjustments to the individual student. For example, if a student got six correct answers in a row, the computer could provide more difficult questions. If a student missed four questions in a row in a particular area, the computer could provide simpler questions or a short unit of instruction in that area.
Over the years, as computers gained in capability and educators/programmers better understood potential capabilities of online assessment, increasingly sophisticated computer-based assessment systems were developed. Computerized Adaptive Testing provides a good example. Quoting from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Computerized_adaptive_testing:
CAT successively selects questions for the purpose of maximizing the precision of the exam based on what is known about the examinee from previous questions. From the examinee's perspective, the difficulty of the exam seems to tailor itself to his or her level of ability.… Compared to static multiple choice tests that nearly everyone has experienced, with a fixed set of items administered to all examinees, computer-adaptive tests require fewer test items to arrive at equally accurate scores.
CAT is not new. Quoting from http://www.catprep.com/cat-preparation.html:
It was in March of 1986 that the Chicago Sun-Times reported on the latest advance in placement exams, reporting that the "standardized testing of college-level skills recently began its long-awaited shift into the realm of computers." The new, improved approach was developed by the Educational Testing Service, along with the College Board, and was named the "Computer Adaptive Test" (CAT). Its first application was in college placement exams, testing incoming freshmen for competency in mathematics, reading, and writing.
The General Educational Development (GED®) Exam
The General Educational Development (GED®) exam was developed in 1942 to meet the needs of World War II veterans who lacked a high school diploma and who were seeking jobs and/or college entrance. It is not a diploma, but has served many millions of students quite well. See a brief history of the GED® exam at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/General_Educational_Development.
The company that produces and markets the GED® exam has enjoyed a monopoly in the business up until now. Quoting from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/General_Educational_Development:
The GED® Testing Service, a joint venture of the American Council on Education and Pearson, is the sole developer for the GED® test. The test can be taken by paper or on computer, but tests must be taken in person. Jurisdictions award a Certificate of High School Equivalency or similarly titled credential to persons who meet the passing score requirements. Passing the GED® test, therefore, gives those who did not complete high school the opportunity to earn their high school equivalency credential.
Now, the GED® Testing Service is developing an online version of the test and plans to discontinue the paper and pencil version. See information about the new test and sample test questions at http://www.gedtestingservice.com/uploads/files/33761bb60c1a7967b323492e3f6d0718.pdf&sa=U&ei=3TNvUdHvF-f0iQL2kYG4Bw&ved=0CB8QFjAA&sig2=u1HrSRsdknd2vNNj0pNx-A&usg=AFQjCNFz5fRatdjkYjLMnmEad4TThpQTkQ.
Reactions to the New GED® Test
Recent high school equivalency testing developments are summarized in the following article:
Hollingsworth, Heather (4/15/2013). Some states dropping GED as test price spikes. News-Leader.com. Retrieved 4/17/2013 from http://www.news-leader.com/viewart/20130415/NEWS07/304150038/GED-test-price-increase.
Quoting from the article:
Several dozen states are looking for an alternative to the GED high school equivalency test because of concerns that a new version coming out next year is more costly and will no longer be offered in a pencil and paper format.
The responsibility for issuing high school equivalency certificates or diplomas rests with states, and they’ve relied on the General Education Development exam since soon after the test was created to help returning World War II veterans.
But now 40 states and the District of Columbia are participating in a working group that’s considering what’s available besides the GED, and two test makers are hawking new exams.
In brief summary, there is now competition in high school equivalency assessment.
When I was a child, one of my favorite science fictions books was the 1948 novel, The World of Null-A, by A.E. van Vogt. A key entity in this book was an intelligent computer system that tested people to determine their general cognitive development and mental control.
Progress in CAT and Artificial Intelligence is leading us in the direction of placing more reliance on and belief in the type of assessment system described in van Vogt’s 1948 novel.
I can imagine that in the future we will have still more broadly-based, fair, reliable, and valid tests making use of the combined strengths of CAT and Artificial Intelligence. Consider this situation in light of the very rapid progress in making available free Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs); students successfully completing these courses can receive a Course Completion Certificate.
Various universities are now making provisions for students to receive college credit for successful completion of such courses (Jaschik, 1/23/2013). It seems clear to me that eventually there will be enough high-quality MOOCs so that a student can complete coursework equivalent to a variety of post-high school degree and certificate programs of study. Provisions will be made for awarding a Certificate of Equivalency for a wide variety of 2-year college, 4-year college, and other types of post-high school education programs.
We have not yet begun to provide satisfactory answers to deep questions such as the advantages and disadvantages of face-to-face courses versus computer-based and distance-learning-based instruction. However, we are at the beginning of a massive change in the general processes of schooling and we are moving rapidly along this path.
What You Can Do
For educators, this is both an exciting and a scary time. We are at the beginning of very major changes in our educational system that will strongly affect both teachers and students. Think about your personal knowledge and interests in this area.
My recommendation is that you become an active participant in helping to shape and implement these changes. For example, you might want to get involved in the needed staff development aspects of implementing the proposed changes.
Hollingsworth, H. (4/15/2013). Some states dropping GED as test price spikes. News-Leader.com. Retrieved 4/17/2013 from http://www.news-leader.com/viewart/20130415/NEWS07/304150038/GED-test-price-increase.
Jaschik, S. (1/23/2013) MOOCs for credit. Inside Higher Education. Retrieved 4/21/2013 from http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2013/01/23/public-universities-move-offer-moocs-credit.
Moursund, D. and Sylwester, R. (3013). Common core state standards for K-12 education in America. Eugene, OR: Information Age Education. Retrieved 4/17/2013 from http://i-a-e.org/downloads/doc_download/249-common-core-state-standards-for-k-12-education-in-america.html.
Suggested Readings from IAE and Other Publications
You can use Google to search all of the IAE publications. Click here to begin. Then click in the IAE Search box that is provided, insert your search terms, and click on the Search button.
Click here to search the entire collection of IAE Blog entries.
Here are some examples of publications that might interest you.
A tablet computer and connectivity for every student. See http://i-a-e.org/iae-blog/a-tablet-computer-and-connectivity-for-every-student.html.
GED incorporating common core standards. See http://www.mercedsunstar.com/2013/08/22/3180746/ged-incorporating-common-core.html.
Grand challenge problems in education. See http://i-a-e.org/iae-blog/grand-challenge-problems-in-education.html.
Kolowich, S. (2/21/2013). Competing MOOC providers expand into new territory—and each other's. Retrieved 2/24/2013 from http://chronicle.com/blogs/wiredcampus/competing-mooc-providers-expand-into-new-territory-and-each-others/42463. Also see the following 3/18/2013 article by the same author: http://chronicle.com/article/The-Professors-Behind-the-MOOC/137905/?cid=at&utm_source=at&utm_medium=en#id=overview.
Supersized online courses. See http://i-a-e.org/iae-blog/supersized-online-courses.html.
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