A standardized classroom test makes a neat model for state and consortium standardized tests. All you need is an easy way to produce multiple-choice questions and the proper test scoring software.
I used True Test Writer (Version 2.06, copyright 2002-2004, is still available free on request). It had the ability to randomize both, answer options and test items, and select one of two right answers. Now there are several more advanced test writer programs that include Internet features listed at Educational Software Cooperative, non-profit.
Multiple-choice questions are easily based on a standardized paragraph:
- Introductory sentence.
- Three or more descriptive sentences, charts, tables, pictures, sketches (what is and is not related).
- Summary sentence.
- Edited to be the first right answer.
- Edited to be wrong answers (what is not acceptable).
- Edited to be the second right answer.
Now there is no way to predict how any question will perform or if students will answer it for the reason you put it on the test. As a rule of thumb, about 2/3 of your questions will be of value in determining what students know and can do and of value in assigning grades. I fielded (placed on the test) about 50 questions for a “one hour” test.
Score the test, for quantity and quality, knowledge and judgment, for the most useful information. Examine the Mastery, Unfinished, and Discriminating items.
Discard items that failed to perform well and keep good items. You need enough mastery items to produce an average score of about 75% and to survey what all of your students really know or can do. You need about 10 Discriminating items to yield a good grade spread: a mean of 75% +/-10% standard deviation and to reveal student groups that know from student groups that do not know. Now eliminate unfinished items unless the item is one that students really should have been able to answer based on your judgment and experience with this class.
With Power Up Plus (PUP), edit the deletions on Sheet 2, and click Score for standardized scores. If you use active testing (rather than passive testing where once done there are no changes) you can edit deletions on Sheet 2 and click Score again after discussing the Discriminating and Unfinished items in class. PUP has the provision to give every student in the class a point when the class discussion seems very productive or the item was a terrible waste of time.
PUP provides information that assesses your teaching, the test questions, and student performance. You need only print out and post the final scores after deletions and adjustments. You decide what needs to be re-taught to the class and which students need individual attention. Scoring for quantity and quality (PUP, Winsteps and Amplifire) gives you the advantage of knowing the level of thinking students are using and their academic maturity, their development in assuming responsibility for learning. PUP scores both traditional right count, and quantity and quality. Each student can make that choice. [Most will give up their old tricycle (guessing) once they have some experience with their new bicycle (reporting what they trust).]
The above sequence of question writing, student response, selecting the “true test” within the fielded questions on the test, and adjusting the cut score is a good model of how states and national standardized tests are conducted. There is one big difference: Students have about a one letter grade advantage taking your tests over tests created by other writers. You are more on target and you are using the vocabulary your students are familiar with. So beware! Your students need at least a one-letter grade handicap. Your just passing in class will be just failing on standardized tests.