Magazine article District Administration

Grading Tests

Magazine article District Administration

Grading Tests

Article excerpt

Harold Dodge has bragging rights when it comes to his Mobile County (Ala.) Public School System students' achievements. But these days, the superintendent is crowing simply because he can access those stats in the first place.

It all began three years ago, when MCPSS rolled out a strategic plan that included reaching 100-percent graduation throughout the district. Such a lofty goal made one thing clear to Margaret Smith, director of information technology: "Make absolutely certain that what we say needs to be taught in the standard is actually being taught."

In short, they needed to test quarterly and track the results instantly.

"We call it dip-sticking," says Dodge. "It's what businesses do. You put the dipstick in every quarter to get a read on your performance rather than waiting until the end of high-stakes testing to find out we completely blew our objectives."

You may begin: Blake tapped the hometown team at Software Technology Inc. to handle test validation across the entire district; originally the curriculum department wrote the tests but now STI handles that task as well. Students record their answers on papers the vendor has pre-slugged with demographic information. "We did not want to rely on humans to bubble that in because it creates lots of mistakes," says Blake. Within four days, teachers and the central office administrators stampede to the Web site to pour over the results.

Healthy competition: In addition to raw scores, teachers receive classroom-, school- and district-wide analysis to measure where they stand. In a saccharine world, that means they can immediately tackle any necessary re-teaching. Principals hone in on planning priorities. The central office sees where to strengthen the curriculum and parents are assured when they move to another school their child won't suddenly be behind or bored because everyone tests to the same objectives. …

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