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New state tests alter questions in real time
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The days of educated guesses on state performance tests are numbered.

The same goes for being exclusively multiple choice questions as well as the use of paper and pencil.

In its place is a computer generated test that’s able to adjust questions in real time depending on whether a student gets a question right or wrong.

It’s all part of the California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress being rolled out in the Manteca Unified School District as well as up and down the state.

The CASPP test is administered via a computer. That allows the use of programs that essentially tailor a test to a student’s grasp of knowledge to allow a more precise assessment of understanding and deficiencies of an individual student. And since the turnaround time is quicker, information ultimately can be provided to teachers so they can zero in on areas where students need help in understanding math and the language arts. Other disciplines such as science may switch to computer based performance testing in the future. 

“If a student answers a question correctly, then the program will generate a question that is slightly harder,” noted Steve Moretto who oversees testing and evaluation for Manteca Unified. “If a student answers a question incorrectly, the next question they will get will be slightly easier.”

Moretto told Manteca Rotarians meeting Thursday at Ernie’s the CASPP test is similar to the Standards Testing and Reporting (STAR) tests they’re replacing in terms of taking a snapshot of the performance of students. But thanks to how the questions are asked and generated, the new tests will reflect a more precise snapshot.

The tests are being administrated in the third through eighth graders as well as the 11th grade.

Instead of all multiple choice answers, students will be presented with a scenario, asked questions and will have essay portions. The use of just multiple choice doesn’t provide teachers with an inkling of why students got the wrong answer. Even a correct answer is slightly dubious given the ability to make an educated guess or an outright guess.

Moretto said the new CASPP test dovetails into the goal of preparing students to be college or career ready when they graduate from the 12th grade. The goal is to eliminate vagueness and promote conciseness in education as well as consistency in a bid to pursue higher learning exceptions. It also involves building knowledge through content-rich non-fiction critical to develop comprehension needed for higher education or to launch a career after the 12th grade.

The CASPP isn’t the only testing that Moretto trains school staff to administer and makes sure the district is compliant with state rules.

Physical education testing is conducted at the fifth, seventh and ninth grade levels.

The California High School Exit Exam is administered at the 10th 11th and 12th grade levels. Once students pass the test, they do not have to take it again.

Students who speak English as a second language need to take tests to assess their proficiency in English.

“The intent is for accuracy in determining where a student’s ability lies,” Moretto said of the shift to the “smarter” and more “balanced” approach to testing that computer run programs allow.


To contact Dennis Wyatt, email