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 How Computer Adaptive Testing Works

Students across the county and state are taking new online assessments this spring that allow for new ways to collect and analyze data such as computer adaptive testing, which customizes the assessments for each student.

With computer adaptive testing, the assessments will adjust the difficulty of questions based on student responses. By adapting to the student as the assessment is taking place, these assessments present a more individually tailored set of questions to each student and can quickly identify which skills students have mastered, maximizing the amount of useful information available to parents and educators.

For example, a student who answers a question correctly will receive a more challenging item, while an incorrect answer generates an easier question. The student answering more difficult questions will then receive additional points based on how advanced the question is.

This approach represents a significant improvement over the old paper-and-pencil assessments, providing more accurate scores for all students across the full range of the achievement continuum.

  • Better information for teachers: Optional computer adaptive interim assessments will provide a more detailed picture of where students excel or need additional support, which will help teachers target what every student needs.
  • More efficient and more secure: Computer adaptive tests are typically shorter than paper-and-pencil assessments because fewer questions are required to accurately determine each student's achievement level. The assessments draw from a large bank of questions, and since students receive different questions based on their responses, test items are more secure and can be used for a longer period of time.
  • More accurate: Computer adaptive testing offers teachers and schools a more accurate way to evaluate student achievement and growth over time.

Computerized assessments allow teachers, principals, and parents to receive results in weeks, not months. Faster results mean that teachers can use the information in conjunction with the information from optional interim assessments throughout the school year to better meet the unique needs of each student.

The results are only one source of information we will be using to monitor student progress. Teachers will also gather other valuable information about each student's learning through classroom assessment and daily student work.

For more information about the assessments, visit the California Department of Education's CAASPP website.