Digital test to track kindergarten proficiency

Published 6:38 pm Monday, April 22, 2013

Digital testing will soon give district elementary school teachers a hand in meeting their students’ needs.

The Austin Public Schools Board discussed a new take on student assessments at Woodson Kindergarten Center during a study session at 4 p.m. Monday. Beginning this fall, the kindergarten will measure its students’ proficiencies through Scantron’s K-1 assessment. The digital test format gives first-grade teachers an idea of what their new students are capable of when they arrive in grade school.

“How can we better impact what our kids are seeing and doing everyday as they go into first grade?” said Jessica Cabeen, Woodson principle.

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Woodson has tried the testing with a sample group of kindergartners to ensure they understood how to answer the iPad-based questions.

“It’s different administering it to a sixth- or seventh-grader than a 5 or 6 year old,” Cabeen said.

The assessment took an average of 40 minutes for students, but will take less time going forward. The program zones in on each child’s skill level, intentionally including questions that are likely too difficult for kindergartners to narrow down where their skills lie. The next time that student takes the test, it will begin based on that estimate and contain fewer questions.

“It’s completely adaptive,” said Corey Haugen, information technology director.

Chris Kasak, a kindergarten teacher at Woodson, said she had helped a group of students complete the assessments on iPads as a trial.

“It went very positively,” Kasak said. “Some just latched right on.”

—Look to Tuesday’s print edition of the Herald for more on the school board meeting.