Business tests students: Part Deux.

From Alberta Education:

Computer Adaptive Assessment

Computer Adaptive Assessment (CAA) is a made-in-Alberta approach to address the individual learning needs of our students through an innovative use of technology. It is a school-based computer assessment tool that immediately ‘adapts’ or tailors the difficulty of each test to the individual student. The CAA initiative provides an optional assessment tool for classroom teachers to assist them in understanding each student’s progress.

In spring 2005 Alberta Education tendered a Request for Proposal for an online CAA system. CAA can support instructional planning, along with other tools such as teacher-developed assessments, commercial assessment/diagnostic tools, and other tests.

Castle Rock Research Corp, an educational resource development company based in Edmonton, Alberta was selected as the prime vendor.

For more information on Computer Adaptive Assessment, please contact Dennis Belyk, Executive Director, Learner Assessment at (780) 427-0010.

Well I logged in to the CastleRock site. I learned a few things.

  • The Castlerock site is not “individual based,” all students write the same test questions. The student’s name will appear above a list of randomly generated questions. The questions are not selected for the individual, they are chosen by a random mathematical/computational script.
  • Castlerock is a store . . . that sells tests. Old tests.
  • The technology is not innovative, schools have had the exact same questions and answer style exam questions since the initiation of the PAT program in the early 90s. My files have many example questions of similar, if not identical style and validity. If I am called upon to create tests similar to those offered by CastleRock I certainly have the expertise. I have questions in my database that Google will never find. The last MC test I gave was marked recorded and returned to the students before the end of the period in which the exam was written. I can be compelled to create these tests at a cost far less than $.35 per test.
  • In its present form the questions are not “adaptive” as advertised. The school will be billed to take tests for up to three years, until the database gets big enough, then the computer spits out the tough questions for the “righties” and the easy questions for the “wrongies”. I’m no math genius, but won’t giving tougher tests to the “righties” and easy tests to the “wrongies” make everyone “average”? I search for gurus to point out what is innovative in this “adaptive” approach. I’ve read Harrison Bergeron, I didn’t like it.
  • The Castle rock site promises “unique” sets of questions, they are recycled test bank questions from the late 90s. Random, maybe, not unique, that’s special.
  • The CAA, CastleRock store is not “teacher-developed”, it is not “school-based”.

“All men are not created equal. It is the purpose of the Government to make them so.”

I will not participate in this “optional” program. I simply can’t find enough professional research to convince me otherwise.

I have some good ideas about education technology innovation that could use a few bucks to keep rolling, though, care to donate?

Oh, when I was a first year teacher, a mentor took me out to the local golf course. I rarely golf and borrowed his son’s clubs. He wagered me a “pop” and even allowed “one kick and a throw.” I took the bet. On the third hole he kicked my ball from the fairway over a barbed-wire fence into a field. On the eighth hole he threw my ball in the water.

Private business vending tests to students

I heard about our school division particpation in a private business site geared at “vending” standardized acheivement tests to students, today . . . a day before an English 30 final, 3 weeks after the L.A. 9 final Part A, and a week after all grade 10 classes have wrapped up. A third party, non-government, now has a list of every student I teach and is awaiting their input to validate multiple choice tests.

I do not know the exact costs to our publicly funded school for using the test “vending” site, but I think I heard $.35 per test. The site has been around for a while and the government has already poured in a million bucks every year since 2005. Until today I understood that such sites were “just another tool” in a sea of online gadgets for testing kids. I understood my participation in such sites was “voluntary.” Until today.

I was enrolled, as was every student I teach, without my knowledge or consent.

I do not know any teachers involved with creating the site. I know a lot of teachers.

So I started to research . . . My fellow teachers have already responded to the Castle Rock testing program:

reputable internationally recognized organizations such as the Educational Testing Services have pointed out that the final cost of developing even the most modest version of a program like CAA in the Alberta context would run into the tens of millions of dollars. In the Association’s view, the overly ambitious claims being made for CAA are neither educationally sound for students nor financially realistic and sustainable.

Why the Alberta government would commit millions of dollars to a private company to modify old provincial test items and put them online remains a mystery.

in the Language Arts Provincial Achievement Test, about one-third of student outcomes can be assessed through multiple choice questions; that of the 200 learner outcomes for Grade 9 science, only 63 (32%) can be assessed; that of the 51 learner outcomes for Grade 9 Mathematics, 24 (47%) can be assessed; and that of the 67 learner outcomes for Social Studies, only 22 (33%) can be assessed.

During the fall, Association staff responded to calls from many teachers who reported feeling pressured to participate in CAA. After being informed that the Association does not support CAA, most of the callers decided not to participate in the program.

as of January 30, 2007, … the superintendent and board of trustees of Edmonton Catholic Schools recently advised its teachers that the board would no longer be participating in the CAA project and that, given the implementation and professional concerns (including those raised by the Association), involvement in the program was henceforth voluntary.

All of this was a mystery to me. And now from my confusion is emerging a very sharp professional opinion on the issue.

I have not been given the opportunity to think on this “vending” of tests to kids.

I feel my mood changing. I need a cookie.

“These are Aliens, Dad!”

Some have noticed that some otherwise regular discussions in class eventually turn to a discussion of, um…, ahh… well …, poop.

The inspiration of such mudtimes no doubt erupt from experience with my three growing boys aged 6, 4, and 2. Several days may pass without reference to “it.” But when the subject rears its ugly head, we usually are moved by good humour.

Today I added a “Spelling Bee” widget. My efforts were sincere, scholarly, and academic. Here’s what I saw for my first word:


I’m going to get a book and settle down to a good read.


Looking for News

Try the following suggestions to increase your daily intake of news feeds.

  • Surf the latest headlines from all over the world. Results are based on google search rankings, the larger the font –> the more hits in google, I recall. Headlines link to an array of news organizations.
  • Aggregate a few headlines from, say, in your own blog sidebar.
  • Create your own online newsreader at or google reader.

Add your own suggested news feeds or feed aggregators in a comment or trackback here.