Wednesday, May 16, 2012

ATI Item Development: Expertise and Experience

ATI item banks, currently containing more than 80,000 items, are among the largest item banks aligned to standards in the nation. The items within these banks have been developed by experts in the field of assessment and instructional design – our content specialists are highly trained and often former educators themselves. We also value the input of those actively in the education field, thus, during the course of a single school year, ATI items are reviewed by hundreds of educators. The combination of internal processes and continuous review by educators means ATI produces assessments that meet local needs and are highly effective in forecasting student mastery of performance standards and in guiding instruction to enhance student achievement.

The following is a glimpse into ATI’s item and assessment construction process.

Item Specifications

The first step in writing a new item to be included in the ATI item banks is to review the standard to be assessed with the item. The standard is broken down into the component skills that make up the standard. These skills are the starting point for developing a list of item specifications that define the characteristics of the particular class of item to be written.

Item Construction

After specifications have been written, items are constructed corresponding to the specifications using the online Bank Builder tool. Bank Builder includes features that promote item quality, such as allowing for the use of item families, or groups of items, that refer to the same contextual material.

To ensure reliable and efficient measurement of standards, passage length is controlled to ensure that assessments are an appropriate length to fit within the time limits typically found in school settings. Reliability is a direct function of assessment length.

The item construction process also includes attention to important principles of item writing. For example, when writing selected-response items, incorrect alternatives must be plausible answers that represent common mistakes or misunderstandings. By developing constructed-response, interactive, and performance items an opportunity exists for more authentic assessment of student proficiencies. The nature of the standard being assessed is evaluated to find the best alignment for the task (e.g., using constructed-response to measure summarizing; using inclusive performance assessment items to measure a broader standard; using interactive items to practice skills like measuring and observing.)

Careful attention is paid to all text and images related to items to ensure that the material is at the appropriate reading level. One measure of readability used routinely is the Flesch-Kincaid Index, a formula based on the number of words per sentence and the number of syllables per word. Item text and images are also analyzed to ensure appropriate use of technical language and for sensitivity to diversity in backgrounds.

Item Review and Certification

The internal review process for item specifications, items, and item families occurs in three steps. Step one is an independent review using the online bank review tool in Galileo K-12 Online. Reviewers may accept the material being reviewed, reject it, or accept it with modifications. Following the initial review, the material is subjected to a final review. When consensus is reached between the two reviewers and the writer, the material under review is accepted for use. In the case of item review, the item is certified. Only certified items are provided by ATI for use by school districts.

The item review process continues once a certified item is made available for use in an assessment. Items placed in district-designed assessments are subjected to review by each member of the district’s review team during the assessment review process. The development of new items based on district suggestions is one source of the continuing expansion of ATI item banks.

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