Wednesday, April 3, 2013

The Dynamic Learning Maps project has added a new associate director, Meagan Karvonen, Ph.D., a long-time researcher in the field of alternate assessments. Beginning this spring on a limited basis, she will join the project full-time in June.

Karvonen will lead the DLM project’s test development and measurement team during the next phase of development of the Dynamic Learning Maps Alternate Assessment System, a computer-based assessment for the 1% of the K-12 public school student population with significant cognitive disabilities for whom, even with accommodations, general state assessments are not appropriate.

She will lead the effort to create assessment content in preparation for field testing and pilot testing before the DLM Assessment is implemented in 14 states during the 2014-2015 school year. She will also oversee the next phase of learning map development and research on the DLM assessment system.

Karvonen currently serves as associate professor of educational research at Western Carolina University in Cullowhee, North Carolina. Her primary research and work have focused on the inclusion of students with disabilities in large-scale assessments, with an emphasis on alternate assessments based on alternate achievement standards.

“I’m excited to be joining the Dynamic Learning maps team,” Karvonen said. “By embedding assessment modeled on good instructional activities throughout the school year, we expect to improve the learning of students with the greatest educational needs.”

The DLM assessment system is being designed to support student learning by having assessment tasks model good instruction. Assessment is embedded in teachers’ instruction given throughout the school year in ways that allow the Dynamic Learning Map to help teachers teach better. It will be implemented in the DLM Consortium states during the 2014-2015 school year.

She has done much work on a national level on alternate assessments, including doing research for the National Alternate Assessment Center, assisting multiple state departments of education with improving their assessment systems, and serving as chairperson of the American Educational Research Association Special Interest Group on Inclusion and Accommodation in Educational Assessment.

“We are thrilled to have attracted Meagan,” said Neal Kingston, DLM project director. “Her experience with alternate assessment and working relationships with state departments of education will enhance the development and implementation of the Dynamic Learning Maps alternate assessment to the benefit of students in 14 states.”

Leila Williams, associate superintendent with the Arizona Department of Education, has worked closely with Karvonen, lead researcher on a longitudinal study of widely different alternate assessments in three states, including Arizona. Williams praised Karvonen’s ability to take complex data gathered across the states and create reports that provided states useful information and guidance on future development of test content.

“The data analysis and research Meagan performed showed our states where our strengths and weaknesses were in our test items that we currently have in place,” Williams said, adding that she was impressed at Meagan’s research expertise and skills at collaboration, organization, and data analysis. “It was such a positive experience working with Meagan and what we gained from working with her. She has a great understanding of test development and she really sees her work as helping us as states move forward with our alternate assessments.”

Karvonen’s recent publications include a chapter on alternate assessments in the book, “Assessing Students in the Margins: Challenges, Strategies, and Techniques.” She received a Ph.D. in educational psychology and research from the University of South Carolina, a master’s degree in clinical and community psychology from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, and a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Alma College.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Vermont has joined the Dynamic Learning Maps Alternate Assessment Consortium.

It joins the DLM Consortium’s 13 other states: Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, New Jersey, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Utah, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, and Wisconsin.

“We are happy to join the other DLM states in the development of authentic assessment tools to inform teaching and learning in Vermont," said Armando Vilaseca, Vermont education commissioner. “Collaboration amongst states will increase professional development opportunities for our educators. I am a believer that collaboration, the sharing of best practices and resources, will strengthen our education system.”

DLM is a multi-state initiative led by the Center for Educational Testing and Evaluation (CETE) at the University of Kansas.

The DLM Consortium is developing the Dynamic Learning Maps Alternate Assessment, a computer-based assessment for the 1% of the K-12 public school student population with significant cognitive disabilities for whom, even with accommodations, general state assessments are not appropriate. Therefore, these students take an alternate assessment.

The DLM assessment system is being designed to support student learning by having assessment tasks model good instruction. Assessment is embedded in teachers’ instruction given throughout the school year in ways that allow the Dynamic Learning Map to help teachers teach better. It will be implemented in the DLM Consortium states during the 2014–2015 school year.

“We welcome Vermont to the DLM Consortium during this exciting time in the history of educational testing,” said Neal Kingston, DLM project director and CETE director. “I fully expect that the addition of Vermont to the Consortium will help ensure we develop a high-quality assessment system that will support student learning and teacher instruction.”

DLM is funded through a five-year-grant awarded in late 2010 by the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs. Its $22 million grant award was the largest in KU history at that time. The DLM Consortium is one of two multistate consortia to receive federal grants to create a next-generation alternate assessment linked to Common Core State Standards in math and English language arts for the 1% population.

DLM is led by CETE, a nationally recognized center specializing in large-scale assessment and online test delivery systems. For more than 30 years, CETE has developed cutting-edge testing programs and technology tools, including the Kansas Assessment Program, Dynamic Learning Maps, Kansas Writing Instruction and Education Tool, and Adaptive Reading Motivation Measures.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Work is under way to see how students with significant cognitive disabilities interact with the computer assessment system being developed for them by Dynamic Learning Maps staff at the Center for Educational Testing and Evaluation (CETE).

In mid-2012 staff started conducting one-on-one sessions known as observational labs with elementary through high school students from Lawrence, Kansas public schools.

During each lab, a student completes about 10 math and 10 English language arts sample test questions on a computer, while staff observe and video record, which allows for further study of student responses.

“Until now, it has not been common practice to formally assess students with significant cognitive disabilities using a computer, and these cognitive labs will help us see how students interact with the DLM assessment system we’re creating,” said Patti Whetstone, one of two CETE research associates conducting the labs. “We want to make sure that the system we create has an accessible and engaging interface.”

Observational labs are just one phase in CETE’s development of the Dynamic Learning Maps Alternate Assessment, which is for the one percent of the K-12 student population with significant cognitive disabilities set to be implemented during the 2014-2015 school year. DLM is just one portion of the Kansas Interactive Testing Engine (KITE), a computer-based platform CETE is developing to replace its current test delivery and management system. The development of KITE continues CETE’s track record of developing innovative, large-scale, computer-based assessments.

Each lab lasts from 30 to 60 minutes, and Whetstone expects about 15 to 20 labs to take place before the fall in video-equipped rooms on campus, with the goal of gathering student feedback on the usability of the interface.

Additional labs tentatively planned for the fall and winter will take place in the schools and will focus on how students respond to different types of test questions, computer adaptations and accommodations, and how assistive technology and alternative augmentative communication devices work with the interface.

“Our goal is to create this interface and then continually improve it so we can accommodate the independence needs of a larger variety of students within the population of students with significant cognitive disabilities,” said Julie Shaftel, CETE research associate conducting the labs. “The ultimate goal of the DLM assessment system is to allow students with significant cognitive disabilities to be independent. Teacher support should always be available to these students, but the ultimate goal is that the assessment system will be so customizable that most students in this population will be able to respond to assessment questions online independently.”

Thursday, July 5, 2012

A Dynamic Learning Maps staff member has received a research grant from Harvard University. Carrie Mark, who is Interim English Language Arts Learning Map Team Lead for the Dynamic Learning Maps project, has received a 2012-2013 Jeanne S. Chall Research Grant to research defining treatment intensity in reading intervention. In her grant proposal, Mark wrote, “While we have made strides in identifying effective practices to treat reading disabilities, we still do not know how to intensify treatment in order to achieve desired results. Until treatment intensity is defined and used consistently by researchers and practitioners, we will struggle to design and implement meaningful reading intervention models.”

Mark will analyze research, drawing on the Harvard’s extensive collection of reading resources, including ground-breaking work related to instruction for individuals with reading disabilities. Mark expects to develop a model of treatment intensity that is grounded in and informed by the research of Jeanne Chall and her contemporaries. Jeanne Chall, founder of the Harvard Graduate School of Education’s literacy laboratory in 1966, was one of the foremost leaders in reading/literacy development in the past century.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

The learning map, cornerstone of the Dynamic Learning Maps Alternate Assessment System (DLM-AAS), was revealed for the first time to the public at a national conference in April 2012.

Normally housed inside of a computer software program, the learning map was printed on a 30-feet-long by 6-feet-high display and unveiled during the National Council on Measurement in Education’s annual conference in Vancouver, British Columbia.

“The map is not yet in its final form, and we wanted to provide people the opportunity to edit the map and give feedback so that the map gets stronger,” said Neal Kingston, director of The Center for Educational Testing and Evaluation, which leads the DLM Consortium that is developing the DLM-AAS.

The printed map, made out of lightweight fabric, reflects the map as of March 2012, and includes 3,015 nodes, which represent the skills and concepts in math and English language arts that students need to acquire by the end of high school.“Providing a visual representation of the map outside of a computer where it normally resides was the best way to show people the learning map,” Kingston said, adding that the map’s skills and pathways are based on extensive research evidence of how people learn.

It also includes 5,288 pathways between skills, which represent the multiple paths students may take in order to acquire those skills and concepts.

In June 2012, the map will expand when special education experts add additional pathways that students with significant cognitive disabilities may take in their process of learning.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Those working on a project funded by the largest grant in Kansas University history are part of a larger national effort to change the way testing is done at elementary and secondary schools.

Neal Kingston, director of KU’s Center for Educational Testing and Evaluation, leads the $22 million project that was announced in October 2010.

To get to the new tests, KU researchers are working on what they call dynamic learning maps, which look like large, complicated flow charts that show how students get from knowing none of the skills they learn in school to knowing everything they know at graduation from high school.

These are, to say the least, large documents.

Putting together a complete picture

For an upcoming conference, Kingston said the group plans to print one of the learning maps in a font size that’s large enough to read. It will be 6 feet tall and about 30 feet long, he said.

“The way that a student learns syllables is different for a deaf student than it is for a student who is hearing,” Kingston said.

A hearing student often learns the concept of syllables by figuring out rhyming first, he said. But a deaf student usually will learn by figuring out various ways words are formed using tongue and mouth positions.

Kelli Thomas, an associate professor of math education, helped put together the math portion of the maps. She’s doing it by bringing together research on smaller bits of the whole puzzle. Someone may have researched how students learn, say, addition, but no one has yet put together a complete picture.

The maps show multiple pathways students can travel to learn one skill, a new feature of these designs.

The new tests will incorporate the learning maps, showing which skills a student has mastered and which ones they still need to work on.

“We can really be fine-grained in an area where students are struggling,” she said.

Eleven states initially signed up to participate in the project with KU, and two more have joined since then.

KU is focusing on students with significant cognitive disabilities — another group is working on tests for the general student population. So far, though, the work has been similar. Kingston referred to a line from a Frank and Ernest cartoon about Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers to illustrate the difficulty of making the tests accessible for students with significant disabilities.

“Sure he was great, but don’t forget Ginger Rogers did everything he did backwards…and in high heels.”

Funding the project

Ronda Consolver, assistant director for the project, said about 10 to 15 faculty are involved in some way, along with 14 graduate research assistants from various departments across the university and 36 full-time staff involved in some way with the project, though some have other duties as well. Many of the graduate students would not be able to attend school if their positions were not funded, he said.

In this case, the grant’s funding for these positions is temporary, Kingston said. The number of people involved in higher education can grow and shrink based on the grants received, analogous to a company receiving a contract.

He said he hoped that some states would contract with KU to administer the tests once the project was finished so that a source of funding for the work would continue.

“In universities, we’re used to it,” he said. “The money’s just as soft here.”

Source: LJWorld

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Educators from coast-to-coast will celebrate the nation's first Digital Learning Day on Wednesday. Amidst the cool technology demonstrations, shiny gadgets, and debates about online learning, it's essential not to overlook the country's most expensive – and perhaps most ambitious – initiative to use digital technology.

Just under 18 months ago, the U.S. Department of Education awarded over $330 million to two state consortia, PARCC and Smarter/Balanced, representing 45 states and the District of Columbia, to design and implement new student assessment systems. Two smaller state consortia, Dynamic Learning Maps (DLM) and the National Center and State Collaborative (NCSC), received an additional $67 million to develop new assessments for students with significant cognitive disabilities. The new assessments, offered mostly online, will replace the current state tests given to millions of students each year in reading and math. At the time, Secretary of Education Duncan called these initiatives an “absolute game-changer” and pledged tests of “critical thinking skills and complex student learning that are not just fill-in-the-bubble tests of basic skills.” In short, it’s an all-out effort to significantly improve one of the weakest – and most despised – aspects of our nation's current educational system.

But, while it’s easy to think of the consortia as “building tests,” the more apt description is that they are attempting to re-invent, with heavy use of technology, the entire process of assessment. They are developing new types of assessment questions to go beyond multiple choice in conjunction with new methods to deliver, administer, score, and report on these assessments. They will delve deeply into professional development. And, together, they are also adopting common performance standards so that proficiency, which now means different things in different states, is a consistent standard across states.

Officially, the new assessments, including formative and interim tools, will not launch until the 2014–15 school year. In reality, though, most of the work needs to be fully-baked for field-testing in the 2013–14 time frame. That means the real work will take place over the next 18 months. This timeline will increasingly drive both decision-making and expenditures. Even though the consortia have generous grants, doing something quickly, for the first time, and in collaboration across many diverse states costs much more.

Many schools and districts, but not all, will struggle to develop the raw capacity – hardware, software, bandwidth, and tech support – to deliver online testing. Since it takes time for budgeting and procurement, districts want to know right now what the “requirements” are going to be. Yet, there's a chicken/egg situation because the consortia don't yet know the content/item types, so they can't say whether to prepare for bandwidth-hogging simulations, graphics, etc.

At the same time, we have a limited sense of schools' and districts' actual capacity. When pushed, they may find a way: As one official at a recent State Education Technology Directors Association (SETDA) event noted, in his state districts and schools felt like they were being pushed off the cliff when online testing was implemented, but in reality, the cliff was only a couple of feet high. While the consortia are developing a “readiness tool” to assess the state of technology down to a school level, they’ll soon have to make a guess as to how ambitious the tech specs will be and that will then become a major constraint to development. And, that guess will have to be made in 2012 about 2015 technology. (iPads were not even around when the Department announced the grant competition.) Lower tech requirements will make schools’/districts’ lives easier, but may limit amount of innovation in item types, data collection, etc. Too far towards the other extreme increases the capacity problem.

From an instructional technology and content standpoint, the enormous scope means that the process by which the consortia do their work may have large implications. For example, if the consortia specify that you must have a device with at least a 13" screen size, good luck selling a 10" iPad tablet. More importantly on the back-end, decisions about the underlying technology architecture and standards for data/content transport will also have implications for both the vendor marketplace and integration of all sorts of other data systems (reporting, analytics, student information systems, formative assessments, content repositories, learning management systems, etc.). In other words, the consortia have the potential to exert a fair-amount of market power in a market that is currently dysfunctional. Whether the consortia choose to wield that power, and whether they do it as a force for good, remains to be seen. Ideally, this will all be done with a keen eye towards interoperability, openness, and extensibility, a system design principle where the implementation takes into consideration future growth. But, designing with the future in mind may take more time, could cost more, and often entails risk – presenting a dilemma for high-stakes development on a tight timeline.

The consortia provide a real opportunity to both understand and upgrade schools’/districts’ technology capacity. As a technology director told me, “they'll buy for the testing mandate.” Yet, whether this capacity will have dual-use for instruction remains to be seen. Schools could get just enough bandwidth to support testing, but have to shut down any other uses for multiple weeks throughout the year. They could also decide to acquire "secure" computer labs, but isolate these from day-to-day classroom instruction. On the good side, one of the hopes of the new assessments is that they will point instruction to more cognitively challenging and beneficial methods. To the extent that these are technology-based, students must have access not just for testing, but also for instruction.

This may all seem to be too far in the weeds to pay attention. But like it or not, how we measure matters. The next generation of assessments will go a long way towards determining whether digital learning actually fulfills its immense promise. And this may be the best chance to get it right.

Source: Huffington Post

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Progress has been made one year into a five-year grant awarded in 2010 to the University of Kansas Center for Educational Testing and Evaluation (CETE) by the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs. The $22 million grant — the largest in KU history — was awarded to fund development and evaluation of a new generation of alternate assessments for students with the most significant cognitive disabilities — the Dynamic Learning Maps Alternate Assessment System (DLM). Thirteen states are participating in the project: Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, New Jersey, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin.

Set for large-scale use during the 2014–2015 school year, the DLM alternate assessment system will let students with significant cognitive disabilities show what they know in ways that traditional multiple-choice tests cannot and is designed to more validly measure what students with significant cognitive disabilities know and can do. The assessment system is structured around a learning map, which models many potential pathways students may take on their path to gaining academic content. The map is populated by a connected network of thousands of sequenced learning targets, or skills, that students need to learn by the end of high school. It is dynamic because it selects test items and tasks for a student based on that student’s previous responses. It is a connected network because skills build upon other skills, and students need to demonstrate prerequisite knowledge and ability before advancing from one skill to another.

CETE is ahead of schedule, having developed seven grade levels of the learning map in the first year of the grant period. As part of the map’s development, educators from across the country examined the map during a two-day content review in September and gave it overwhelming praise.

“It [the learning map] is so intricate because you can see the pathways and how some individual might go one way, and another individual might go another way,” said Jeff Crawford, an educator from Washington. “The learning map is unbelievable. It’s very complex and very detailed.”

“The learning map itself is very helpful for teachers in learning alternative routes for students to end up at the same destination,” said Terri Portice of Michigan. The map will undergo two more reviews by education experts in the fields of special education and cognitive psychology in 2012 and then be validated through the extensive collection of student data in the 13 participating states.

The next stage of DLM work, development of instructionally relevant item types that go beyond traditional multiple-choice items, has already begun. Historically, tests have been designed to measure skills efficiently, but in the face of high-stakes accountability systems, many teachers have begun teaching to tests. DLM has been working with master teachers to design test items that model good instructional activities so that if teachers do teach to the test, the tests will be worth teaching to. Prototypes of these new item types are under development and will be tried out with students and presented to teachers for feedback over the next few months. 

DLM is a comprehensive assessment system grounded in research evidence and emerging theory about assessments for students with significant cognitive disabilities. It breaks new ground in universal design for assessment, learning map development, instructionally embedded assessment, and technology-based, instructionally relevant item types.

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

Monday, November 28, 2011

Four Center for Educational Testing and Evaluation (CETE) staff members are presenting at the 2011 TASH conference in Atlanta this week. TASH is a disability advocacy organization that advocates for human rights and inclusion for people with significant disabilities. CETE staff members Alan Sheinker, Carrie Mark, and Sookyung Shin will present the session “Dynamic Learning Maps™ Alternate Assessment System (DLM-AAS): A new generation assessment for students with significant cognitive disabilities.”

CETE leads the DLM-AAS Consortium, a group of 13 states that was awarded a $22 million grant to develop the assessment system from the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs in 2010. Hyun-jeong Cho will present “Understanding alternate assessment misassignment and how to prevent it,” which examines when students are not correctly identified for alternative assessments and provides solutions to ensure academically challenging education for students with disabilities. Sookyung Shin is also participating in the panel discussion, “In their own voices: successes, challenges of raising children with severe disabilities,” in which parents from five different countries who have immigrated to the United States share stories of their journeys with their children who have severe and intensive needs.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Researchers at the University of Kansas have received a $22 million grant to develop a new assessment system for special education students in 11 states.

The grant from the U.S. Department of Education will support development of the Dynamic Learning Maps Alternate Assessment System, led by Neal Kingston, a faculty member in the Department of Psychology and Research in Education and director of KU’s Center for Educational Testing and Evaluation. It is the largest grant in KU history.

“It’s long been realized that when accountability is based on test scores, teachers will teach to the test,” said Kingston. “The new system will turn around that process and design tests to model good instruction — to be driven by and be part of instruction instead of a standalone activity.”

The new system will rely on assessment that is built into the learning process, rather than on an annual exam. Teachers can determine throughout the year how each student is learning by using a “learning map,” which details relationships among thousands of skills students develop throughout their education.

“When you have really good diagnostic information that supports the educational process, you can address needs and remediate immediately,” Kingston said.

State departments of education in Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, New Jersey, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Utah, West Virginia and Wisconsin plan to use the program beginning in the 2014-15 school year.

“The Center for Educational Testing and Evaluation has been a leader in the development of assessments for K-12 students for nearly 30 years,” said Rick Ginsberg, dean of KU’s School of Education. “This new grant is yet another example of CETE’s leadership nationally in developing assessments to assist educators with innovative approaches for supporting teachers in working with all students regardless of their academic abilities.”

Kingston said the new assessment model eventually could be used for all students.

“With this grant, the University of Kansas has an opportunity to improve the quality of education received by countless children,” said Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little. “By shaping the future of educational accountability, Neal Kingston and his team will help teachers better connect with students.”

In addition to the 11 participating states and the Center for Educational Testing and Evaluation, the Dynamic Learning Maps consortium includes faculty from several other departments and research centers within KU, including the Beach Center on Disability, Center for Research on Learning, Center for Research Methods and Data Analysis and Department of Special Education. Key external partners include AbleLink Technologies, the Arc, the Center for Literacy and Disability Studies at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill and Edvantia.

Source: KU News