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End-of-course assessments as quality assurance measures

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Several states are using end-of-course assessments (EOCs) as quality assurance metrics for both online and face-to-face courses. Michigan is developing and implementing EOCs as part of the larger state assessment program.

End-of-course assessments (EOCs) have gained attention in recent years as part of statewide assessment programs designed to create student, teacher, and district-level accountability measures. Essentially, EOCs tie instruction to student, classroom, or school achievement. Based on a report from 2011, 28 states either had already implemented EOCs or were in the process of developing them. States are using EOCs in a variety of ways to track accountability; one dual-purpose implementation strategy for the state of Michigan to consider is the use of EOCs as quality assurance measures for online course providers. This initial implementation could act as a large-scale pilot prior to rolling out the assessments statewide.

While the utility of EOCs may seem straightforward, designing and administering any assessment system requires numerous considerations and thorough planning. Further, EOCs should be implemented as part of a broader assessment system intended to support larger policy goals, not simply for the sake of large-scale data collection.

The recent Keeping Pace report found 20 states with EOCs of varying quantity and requirement. An additional four states with EOCs (FL, GA, LA, UT) also have a choice at the course level policies in place for K-12 students. Michigan may constitute the fifth state with both course choice and EOCs, although state funding was only allocated for the development of the EOCs, none of which have been administered past pilot phases. Out of the four states identified by Keeping Pace only two, Florida and Louisiana, had well established EOC and course choice policies and available resources.

Florida

According to the Florida Department of Education Bureau of K-12 Assessment, the Florida EOCs are aimed at increasing student achievement statewide and increasing student college and career readiness. Florida EOCs are administered electronically for specific subject areas aligned with the Next Generation Sunshine State Standards and are required for all public school students in the state.

The first EOC, algebra 1, was delivered in 2011, and since then four other assessments have been developed and administered (biology 1, geometry, U.S. history, civics). EOCs are administered at the end of both the fall and spring semesters, and assessment requirement is based on enrollment and completion of associated courses (i.e. students enrolled in algebra 1, algebra 1 honors, algebra 1b, Pre-AICE mathematics 1, or IB middle years’ program are required to take the algebra 1 EOC assessment). In addition to other requirements, students must achieve a passing score on the statewide assessments, including the EOCs, to graduate high school and receive a diploma.

EOC results are available to the public on the FLDOE website for all districts in Florida, including the Florida Virtual School, the largest virtual school in the country. While the Florida EOCs are not explicitly tied to course choice legislation, public reporting of EOC results allows parents and students in Florida to make informed decisions about which content providers are effectively addressing the Next Generation Sunshine State Standards.

Louisiana

High school students in Louisiana take EOCs in six subjects: algebra I, geometry, English II and III, biology and U.S. History. Common core aligned EOCs for English and mathematics were newly administered in the 2013-14 school year. EOCs are administered in May to students on traditional schedules, and December and May to students on block schedules; retests are offered in June. EOCs are required of all students enrolled for credit in any of the courses that have an accompanying test and count for approximately 15% to 30% of the student’s final course grade. Tests must be taken at the end of the semester in which the student completes the course, regardless of the student’s course grade.

EOCs are scored as Excellent, Good, Fair, or Needs improvement. Students must earn a score of fair in at least one mathematics EOC, one English EOC, and either biology or U.S. history to meet the state graduation requirements and receive a standard high school diploma. Reports are available on the Louisiana Department of Education website detailing the percent of students receiving each of the categorical EOC scores (excellent, good, fair, needs improvement) by school. There are annual reports for each EOC from each year the EOC was administered.

Michigan Interim Assessments

Michigan, too, has developed EOCs. The Michigan Interim Assessment (MI IA) program was originally funded by the Michigan Legislature to develop pre/post assessments for grades K-12. A considerable amount of work has gone into the development and piloting of the MI IAs; however, funding was not renewed in the legislature for subsequent years.

At the secondary level, MI IAs have been developed in science (biology, chemistry, physics and earth science) and social studies (US history and geography, world history and geography, economics and civics). They are delivered online through a fixed form assessment, including set test items as well as field test items. Michigan educators with expertise in the subject area of the assessment developed all the test items and reviewed items for content accuracy, bias, and accessibility. Assessments are scored electronically though further development is needed for real-time assessment reports and comprehensive summary reports.

According to the Michigan Department of Education, MI IAs can be used in three different ways as part of a balanced assessment system. They can be used by teachers as student-level formative assessments to direct instruction, as summative assessments to measure how much students have learned, and as end-of-course assessments to assess whether students learned what they should have in a subject area. While all three options provide rich student data, MI IAs also offer considerable promise in their use as end-of-course assessments and/or as quality assurance measures in online courses.

MI IAs as Quality Assurance Measures

Through legislation enacted in 2013 (referred to as 21f) Michigan middle and high school students were given the opportunity to enroll in up to two online courses per academic term selected from the micourses.org website. Since then, local education agencies (LEA) have raised concerns over students receiving instruction from outside the district yet being held accountable for that child’s education. A possible way for the MI IAs to be piloted in Michigan is to use them as quality assurance measures for online courses. Having a standardized way to measure course outcomes may alleviate these concerns and provide important data points about quality online providers.

Michigan has already laid much of the groundwork necessary for this type of quality assurance indicator specific to online K-12 courses. Currently, districts and ISDs offering online courses are required to report the total number of enrollments for a particular course as well as the course pass rate, and this information is shared publically through the micourses.org website to allow parents and students to make more informed choices when deciding among online options. Adding EOC data would add another measure of course quality for parents, students, and schools to use in their decision making.

Because Michigan has already invested in the development of the MI IA program, a pilot using online learners offers a low stakes (not tied to graduation) and low cost (only small number of students take assessments) avenue to better gauge its value. It may also be another example of how online learning can help bring innovation to the K-12 school system.

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Michigan Virtual Learning Research Institute

Michigan Virtual Learning Research Institute

The Michigan Virtual Learning Research Institute (MVLRI) is a non-biased organization that exists to expand Michigan’s ability to support new learning models, engage in active research to inform new policies in online and blended learning, and strengthen the state’s infrastructures for sharing best practices. MVLRI works with all online learning environments to develop the best practices for the industry as a whole.

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