The Testing Company with a Soul

The effectiveness of educational programs at all levels cannot be determined unless we measure student performance.

Cold, hard (education) data gets a makeover.

Quoted from EdTech Digest | Interview by Victor Rivero

MartinBorgMartin Borg joined Measured Progress as president in November of 2008 and was appointed chief executive officer in 2011. Martin is an experienced and dedicated educator committed to helping students and teachers in the classroom. Prior to Measured Progress, he taught social studies, served as a school district technology officer, developed an online test delivery system, and started his own company, which he ultimately sold to a testing company. In this interview, Martin discusses the new Every Student Succeeds Act, why assessment is critical to instruction and student learning, where we’re heading in the next five years, and why his company has a soul.

What have been the biggest changes to large-scale assessment over the last few years? 

Martin: The two biggest changes have been the shift to online test delivery and the increased stakes associated with the results. While there may be a few minuses to online testing, the quick turnaround of results, accessibility tools and linkages of results to online instructional tools are significant plusses. Also, computer-scored, technology-enhanced items, enabled by online test delivery systems, can assess higher-order skills that traditional machine-scorable items cannot. Regarding high-stakes testing, the passing of the Every Student Succeeds Act should reduce undesirable impacts by shifting responsibility for accountability back to the states.

What do you predict will be the most important changes in the next five years? 

Martin: The use of online testing will continue to increase as more schools become computer-ready. At the same time, we should see an increase in the use of extended performance assessments both in local testing and as a component of large-scale assessment programs. These could take the form of investigations or other projects that result in student demonstrations of deeper learning.

How important is large-scale, online assessment? Why? 

Martin: Large-scale assessment is particularly important for evaluation of school programs and accountability. The effectiveness of educational programs at all levels cannot be determined unless we measure student performance. Online testing enables efficiencies in time and cost, at the same time allowing a wider range of item types and response formats.

Measured Progress has a long history in the assessment market. What makes your approach different from that of some of the other providers? 

CREDIT Measured Progress imageMartin: We have been described by one long-time state client as the testing company “with a soul.” We pride ourselves in being educators in partnership with other educators (our clients), true to our not-for-profit educational mission. We focus on what’s best for kids, not on quarterly earnings. Our clients see that and also appreciate our total openness with them and our willingness to “think outside the box” to continually improve how we assess students. Customer service, relationships with clients, commitment to kids and to teaching and learning are critical.

In which states and programs has Measured Progress been most successful administering large-scale assessment? What’s the secret to your success?

Martin: Some of our most successful programs have been those in Maine, Massachusetts and Kentucky. Also, in many states we implement alternate assessments for students with the most severe cognitive difficulties. There are three top reasons for the success of these programs: the open relationship with clients, excellent support of test administrators in the field and the willingness of state officials to stay the course with innovative programs. Innovations include implementing performance and portfolio assessments on a large scale and introducing various new practices in assessment content, scoring and reporting. Also, through the strength of our collaborations with state clients, we’ve been able to implement very successful multi-state consortia programs. These include general assessments for the four-state New England Common Assessment Program and alternate assessments for 12 members of the National Center and State Collaborative.

Given what we know about legislation and the decisions confronting states and educators, what’s your best hope for the next few years?

Martin: Returning control of accountability assessment to the states, which the ESSA will accomplish, is a good thing. Hopefully, states will react to the concerns of over-testing by recognizing the limitations of large-scale, external, summative assessment and will reduce the “footprint” of external testing and incorporate local interim assessments, including curriculum-embedded performance assessment, in their accountability assessment programs.

Any thoughts on technology’s transformative effect on education in today’s environment?

Martin: Educational technology has tremendous potential for improving instruction—changing the way teachers and students spend their time, making students more responsible for their own learning and providing access to very useful tools and resources.

Anything else you care to add or emphasize? 

Martin: Effective, appropriately used assessments are critical to the success of instructional programs and student learning. Much more should be done in teacher pre-service and in-service programs to promote deeper understanding of assessment concepts, tools and practices. Of course, administrators and policymakers have significant needs in this area, as well.

Victor Rivero is the Editor in Chief of EdTech Digest. Write to: victor@edtechdigest.com

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