Now students can practice online before taking those increasingly important state-mandated “standards of learning” tests.

Edutest, a company based in Fairfax, Va., has developed online practice tests that let K-12 students expand their test-taking prowess before facing the real thing. So far, Edutest has programs that correspond to tests in Virginia, California, and Florida, and the company currently is developing tests for Ohio students, among others.

Edutest says that practice tests for other states will be added to its web site according to public demand, but the company expects to have all 50 states represented online within two years.

Until then, parents, teachers, and administrators can apply the current testing models to their children, as there tends to be a lot of overlap in the types of information kids are tested on, according to Steven Hoy, vice president of sales and marketing at Edutest.

“If you’re looking to attain an assessment of your student and a detailed breakdown of their skills, the programs we already have will do that,” said Hoy.

Edutest isn’t the only organization to make sample questions from state tests available over the internet. The web site for the nonprofit Texas Business and Education Coalition, for example, features thousands of questions modeled after those in the Texas Assessment of Academic Skills (TAAS), an annual examination taken by most third- to eighth-grade students in Texas public schools.

But Edutest may be the first for-profit company to offer this type of service to schools and students nationwide.

Because all states receive government funding to conduct their standards testing, they all have certain basic skills which must be addressed at certain grade levels, Hoy said.

Using these basic testing standards as a starting point, Edutest develops its own sample test items in accordance with the requirements of each state. “We have experts develop our questions for us,” Hoy said. “We don’t purchase test content from other testing companies.”

Edutest does not work with individual state departments of education because state organizations cannot specifically endorse any commercial product and the state exams are highly confidential to avoid any cheating. However, many states do post blueprints—like those outlined in the Goals 2000 program—which can be used for test development, according to Hoy.

Susan Hardwicke, president and CEO of Edutest added, “We used Goals 2000 as a springboard. All 50 states are required to develop criteria for students’ testing, which we can then use.”

Once Edutest has created a preliminary practice test, it is sent out to students and educators for beta testing. Developers encourage those trying out the tests to provide them with feedback on content.

One benefit to using the Edutest web site in preparation for state standards testing is that the assessments are updated regularly, Hoy said. Since they are always changing, students can practice on a different test each time they log on to the site. “That’s the benefit of having a program like this on the internet: this way, students have access to continuous fresh content,” Hoy said.

The Edutest product is sold to individual teachers, schools, or entire districts, in addition to the at-home product. A single teacher can purchase a site license for one year at a rate of $19.95, or an individual school can purchase a license for $29.95. Districts receive a discount if they buy for all their schools and are only charged $24.95 per school, per year.

For these fees, users receive unlimited usage and access to the site for a year. Students who take the practice assessments receive immediate test scores, and their input is aggregated overnight and final class reports are posted online the next day. The service also allows for performance charting of students.

Teachers are encouraged to schedule students’ assessments ahead of time, and each student subsequently logs on, takes the test, and receives an immediate score.

“Edutest was created out of the need to help educators understand how their students are doing in real time,” explained Hoy. “With paper and pencil testing, everything is very secretive, and you can’t go back over the test. You don’t get results until it is too late to do anything about them.”

Hardwicke added, “When I had two children in public schools, I would get their report cards and it always seemed the information I received was really late and not useful at all. With our system, students’ progress can be tracked from kindergarten to graduation. Although test scores aren’t the only indicator of progress, they are certainly a significant one.”

Hardwicke also told eSchool News that the company has plans for several strategic product enhancements in the future, including the addition of more diagnostics. “These improvements will be able to tell a student why an answer is incorrect, and students will actually be able to select levels of feedback.”

Hardwicke concluded, “I believe the internet is changing how we educate, and how students think. We want to keep pace with how students actually learn.”

Edutest

http://www.edutest.com

Texas Business and Education Coalition

http://www.tbec.org