PLATO Learning’s PLATO Assessment enables teachers to perform periodic, standards-based assessment of students, with results available for instant analysis at the student, classroom, school, and district levels. The program enables teachers to administer two types of tests: fixed benchmark tests that are correlated with national and state standards for every state, or customized exams created from an item bank of 180,000 questions aligned with each state’s standards. Both options are geared toward students in grades 2-11. The core of the product comes from Lightspan’s EduTest solution, which PLATO acquired when it purchased Lightspan in 2003. The company has been making improvements to the product ever since, and the most complete version–in which teachers can view class and individual student strengths, as well as moderate and high-need areas of focus–has been available since August 2004. Besides more robust reporting features, the product also offers flexible test delivery options: Teachers can administer the tests online or on paper, and if they give paper-based exams, they can enter the answers online by hand or scan them into the system via computer. The software’s reporting feature has the ability to show each question of an exam, along with the percentage of students who chose each response. Teachers also can drill down to see how students answered each test item. District officials can use the software to view strengths and needs by district or school, and educators can get a progress chart for each content strand throughout the year, so they can fine-tune the order or pace of their curriculum as necessary. PLATO Assessment, which currently exists as a stand-alone program, is being integrated into the company’s newest solution, PLATO Teaching and Learning Enterprise (PTLE), which will combine formative assessment with instructional management to prescribe either PLATO Learning software or a district’s own proprietary content to address the gaps in students’ understanding. A beta version of PTLE was just released in January, and the company has targeted the full release of the software for the 2005-06 school year.
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