This resume explores the diagnostic assessment as presented by the “California community colleges student task force”. The paper will introduce “diagnostic assessment”, Present several systems and how different states are developing “diagnostic assessments”, Show differences with other states, Discuss implications of time and resources for testing the assessment and Show opportunity in K-12 and colleges on diagnostic assessment. The paper will lay emphasis on other States which are on a similar transition or have done so in the past. These are Virginia, Florida and North Carolina. The paper will highlight what can be learned from each state. The paper will conclude by highlighting the areas that may challenge diagnostic assessment and how they can be overcome.
California community colleges board of governors adopted recommendation presented to them by student’s task force. Mainly, they were to develop a diagnostic assessment that would suit all the systems. This would be used on under-prepared learners in maths and English at before college level. As some states already have such test would, it gives a good platform to borrow a leaf. The report covers the following.
- Introduce “diagnostic assessment”
- Present several systems and how different states are developing “diagnostic assessments”
- Show differences with other States
- Discuss implications of time and resources for testing the assessment
- Show an opportunity in K-12 and colleges on diagnostic assessment.
After high school, most students are not prepared for college-level education. This is more common in maths and English subjects. If students were tested, they would be made to prepare more. The question that comes to mind is how colleges can prepare students and support them individually. Placement test plays a major role and in California even high school transcripts are checked. Research indicated that 15% were prepared well for maths and 27% in English. Drop-outs could be linked with lack of preparedness before college. Diagnostic assessment could be seen as a tool to reform community colleges. They are assumed to be strong because they show what students know or do not know in a specific subject. In this regard, diagnostic assessment becomes a tool for student placement, if a student is weak in a certain subject they can be passed through a small module which would prepare them. This would also help to tailor modules which would suit the student’s capabilities.
The main recommendation by the task force was to have a standard assessment. It would be in writing, reading, maths and ESL. This assessment would be passed to faculties for consideration when preparing a curriculum. It would also dwell on student strengths and weaknesses. The rationale was that
- standard assessments would signal K-12 of expected capabilities
- economies of scale-for tests as the State would pay
- portability of score through several colleges
- practice could be floated online for more practice
- other measures of student capabilities could be accessed by counsellors
- Centralization of placement results.
This would directly lead to reforms in handling of student in K-12 and colleges as well as their curriculums.
Learning from those who started early
Florida, North Carolina and Virginia started the idea of diagnostic assessment early. In all these states, diagnostic assessment was founded on reorganization of the curriculum for California this will be done in the future. Secondly, there are trade-offs as efficiency and time come to play. California having many students must strategize on how to approach this challenge.
Serving 887,000 students taking diverse programs developed a new placement test in 2010. The test assessed readiness of students in maths, writing and reading. The test is computer-adaptive. The state also introduced common developmental course cutting across English and maths. Six colleges were allowed to divide these into even smaller modules. What can be learned from the state in this State is that;
- The initial step in developing effective assessments is collaborating K-12 teachers, and colleges faculties agree on needs.
- Diagnostic test should be used to place students in their developmental area then continue to find out their strengths.
- Colleges use of diagnostic data may be varied to suit their needs
The state caters for nearly 287,000 students per year. The state redesigned developmental curriculum. The notable thing is that, maths reforms were done before they worked on English. They first developed a vision which would guide the restructuring of developmental curriculum. Then the guidelines would be employed to steer the new curriculum and lastly assessments in line with the new curriculum.
The maths faculty identified the fact that academic goals did not need all math modules as a foundation. In this regard, they developed modules which would be tested as two sets from 1-5 and 6-9. These were computer adaptive. These divisions allowed the assessors know where to place the students depending on their capabilities. The lessons from the State are
- The student should not take more than an year in developmental education, a guide in curriculum development
- Developing course modules before the tests- this would allow the test to dictate which module the students should be placed in
- Using few diagnostic tools to save time
- Varied competences requiring different capabilities would exempt students from some diagnostic tests.
The state serves an estimated 850,000 students every year. The state is yet to put in use of a new assessment model. But it has a proposal which may lead to the implementation. It also targets to deal with maths first. In 2010, the state developed vision which will guide curriculum redesigning and lead to new assessments. The state would then move to specifying the requirements of the new curriculum. In the future, the state would develop assessments which will be in line with the already developed curriculum. The points to consider from the blue-print from the state are listed below
- Reform may not be necessary for all subjects; one subject can be used, and development of others can be based on insights gained from such.
- The target to surpass general assessment and go straight to assessments aimed at determining student’s weaknesses and strengths are beneficial and time-saving.
- The identification of the fact that math competencies many differ in future depending on their course interests. This implies having different modules in mathematics assessments.
As noted, due to California respect for local to control curriculum, the reforms would lead to the development of assessments without the clear vision of the format of developmental curriculum. This would contradict what is observed in other states where a developmental curriculum is developed first, and then the diagnostic tests are designed in line with the reformed curriculum. With this, in mind the state would employ the faculty to employ diagnostic information. If such data is available then, the State can curriculum changes that will enable the students in the state to perform well.
Using Virginia example the state should enquire on the student program of study desired. With this it would be able to use the diagnostic assessment which will only cover the areas of their future interests. Similarly, diagnostic assessments would be pivoted by the student’s interests.
The state also needs to understand the resources for the administration of diagnostic assessment to a wider student group. The data and trend seen from the other states can be helpful in determining how the state approaches the tests. For example, the colleges may need to assess how much time the students will take the tests and how the colleges will accommodate them. If the aim is to ensure the faculties adjust, research by the colleges is needed to help review the necessary diagnostic data and evaluate the changes to the curriculum reforms. The state has implemented K-12 standards in both maths and English. With this soon, there will be state standard assessments.
Smarter-balanced-summative assessments will change what is known in California. In addition to reducing multiple choice tests, there will be the following
- Selected-response parts, for example, multiple choice
- Constructed-response questions- students will write their answers
- Technology-enhanced areas-requiring interaction with technology and give a response
- Performing of tasks- practical oriented tests.
These will be a great stride in education and curriculum reforms in the state. However, one challenge that remains is whether schools and the local community colleges will work with a similar vision to ensure career and college readiness is achieved.
Following the above observation, “California community colleges student task force” notes that diagnostic assessment is a potential tool for improvement of student’s success. However, there is a challenge as to whether the assessments would be effective. This is because the state colleges show differences in the way they structure curriculum and goals. Another question is “should the assessments follow reformed developmental curriculum?” to be successful the state needs to observe and study other states approaches. The insights obtained will help the state improve and achieve its desired reforms.
LearningWorks and EdSource. (2013). Diagnostic Assessment: Challenges and Opportunities for the California Community Colleges. carlifornia: LearningWorks and EdSource.