July 18, 2019

Computer Adaptive Tests

I’m in my second year at my current district where I serve the secondary student population (grades 7-12). My district’s elementary schools are doing a really nice job with their response to intervention (RtI) framework but we have a lot of work to do at my middle and high schools. At the end of last year, we purchased licenses to use STAR Math and STAR Reading (and STAR Early Literacy for the Elementary folks) through Renaissance Learning. I’ve recently been through a couple of trainings for how to administer and interpret the assessment and reports. I’m hopeful that these assessments will do a better job of capturing my older students’ skills, especially for the student’s in special education since they’ve been using the same CBM probes for years. Our STAR assessments can be used for universal screening, progress monitoring, and diagnostic purposes. Plus, they tie into the Common Core standards, which is so helpful for teachers who need to make the connection between assessment to high school classes!

Another feature I’m impressed with so far (surprise) is that the system provides you with a Student Growth Percentile. For instance, if a 7th grade student scores a grade equivalent of 4.5 on the Reading assessment, the report will tell me how much a student with that same profile (7th grade scoring 4.5) will typically “grow” by the end of the year. I’ve always wondered “how much growth can we expect?” from our students. I’ll have to see how this plays out for the school year. Because I need another project… :)

After attending some sobering workshops at my national school psych convention in February, I’m a little worried about the weight we place on student rate of improvement data when research suggests that we need at least 14 data points to have a reliable oral reading fluency trendline (Christ, Zoplouglu, Long, & Monaghen, 2012)!!! The STAR assessments can provide a reliable trendline after 4 data points. Think about how much sooner we could be making solid instructional decisions?! I’m curious if anyone else is using computer adaptive tests. It will certainly be a learning curve (ha…) for me this year!

About Caitlin

Caitlin Flinn Bennyhoff, D.Ed., NCSP, is currently employed as a Nationally Certified School Psychologist in Pennsylvania. She completed her doctoral degree in school psychology at Indiana University of Pennsylvania. Her main interests include response-to-intervention, systems-level change, measuring student growth, and data analysis teams.


  1. Pam Gray says:

    I think trend lines using different algorithms have different validity and reliability variables depending on number of data points used. The trend lines that pop up when I use something like easyCBM may not be as reliable in the beginning as they are later when more data points are used. The technical specs just don’t mention that little detail.

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