by John Mullin, Enlearn CEO

I recently read a fascinating article in EdWeek on adaptive testing, which, in my opinion, is a great educational step forward.

But it’s only a step forward.

And I say this because I believe that adaptivity can drive the personalization of the entire curriculum experience – not just the test-taking experience.

I think that Jim Murray, the Principal at the Waukesha STEM Academy-Saratoga Campus, a 336-student school in Wisconsin, understands this.

After setting up an adaptive testing program, Murray said:

“We were amazed when we realized we could dive deeper into every student as an individual learner and not just think about where they should be, based on their age. We were able to reformulate how we were approaching kids.”

In fact, when you have a truly adaptive curriculum, the need for stand-alone assessments actually decreases. Indeed, that same data-per-student becomes available in real-time, all the time. And it doesn’t have to be a separate activity.

Laurie Wicks, the principal at the 570-student Bunker Hill Elementary School in Middletown, Delaware, has it exactly right – we can do better than just identifying where students are struggling at the broad-stroke concept level; we can now identify, not only the specific problem type, but the specific misunderstanding within that problem; and we can then deliver tailored content that isolates the precise issue holding the student back and eliminates other “noise” during that remediation.

In other words, we can provide laser-like remediation and then scaffold each student right back on track.

“The data that I want and that I think is beneficial needs to be drilled down to tell me specifically what a child can and can’t do,” says Wicks, instead of validating with documentation what teachers often already know. “What we get is too general … This is definitely an area that needs refinement in the future.”

The bottom line here is that it’s time to stop treating formative data and assessments as separate and distinct from ongoing, real-time instruction and student practice. They can be blended seamlessly. And we’re seeing this in our classrooms.