As schools prepare for online testing (per the Common Core initiative, beginning 2014–2015), new technology is taking hold that brings promise to gifted students. It’s called computer-adaptive testing and, as a new article in Education Week explains, it offers a wide range of benefits, especially for those who are gifted. The tests pull questions from a massive bank—as many as 800 questions for a 40-question test—and offer different questions to different students based on how well they are doing. “An algorithm guides the computer as it picks questions based on the answer given,” the article's author, Michelle Davis, writes. “Typically a student will get about half the questions offered by the computer correct, whether he or she is a high, middle, or low performer, since the questions are tailored for that student’s particular level.”
Providing tests of ample challenge is important, as it allows educators to get an accurate grasp of a student's knowledge and capabilities. Such tests would help teachers understand to what extent their curriculum is adequately serving their students' needs. The state of Delaware began using the tests 3 years ago, and officials there are pleased with the results. “Adaptive testing is really beneficial and can pinpoint a student’s learning level more closely,” Gerri Marshall, supervisor of research and evaluation for Red Clay Consolidated School District in Wilmington, DE, explains. Although start-up costs are high and logistics can be difficult to work out, benefits include less potential for cheating and a more responsive and insightful testing experience for all students.
Oregon and Hawaii also currently use adaptive testing, and at least 20 more states are expected to do so once they begin testing online.