Peak to Peak high school students help company develop alternative assessment test – Colorado Hometown Weekly


Juniors and seniors at Peak to Peak Charter School in Lafayette are participating in a pilot project of a new simulation-based video game assessment under development by a California company.

Two project managers from Imbellus, based in Los Angeles, came to Peak to Peak on Wednesday to give the students a work-in-progress assessment, get their feedback, and see how long it took the students to complete. Assessment tasks ask students to complete a series of challenges to build an ecosystem.

“It’s really important to understand cognition and the way people think,” said Erica Snow, senior executive at Imbellus. “Our assessment is designed to really tap into higher order thinking. It really is about life skills and how to have a better understanding of the world around you.

Peak to Peak High School principal Kyle Mathews said he sees alternative testing options as a way for students to more fully demonstrate their skills. Instead of replacing ACT and SAT, he said, a problem-solving assessment could be added to a student’s application for admission to college.

“For the students who are not good candidates, we want another place where they can really shine,” he said. “Colleges can see how they collaborate and solve problems, not just the content they know. “

He connected with the company after reading a Bloomberg article on his work. The company works primarily with a school district in California, but agreed to add Peak to Peak after Mathews reached out.

How to best test students’ knowledge and skills is a common topic of conversation at Peak to Peak, said Mathews.

On Wednesday, the company asked a few Peak to Peak students to complete a set of tasks while being remotely connected to a researcher. The students recounted their responses and thought process, while the researcher asked questions.

Separately, a larger group performed the tasks on their own and then answered questions in a more traditional focus group model.

Typically, the students said, the first two sections of the three-section assessment were “so easy,” while the third section required them to juggle lots of data points. They also came up with suggestions for improving the interface by requiring less scrolling.

Brandon Guo, who took the assessment while speaking with a researcher, said he was interested in the pilot because traditional standardized test scores strongly correlate with income.

“They are highly biased,” he said. “I wanted to see what other opportunities there are.

For Imbellus’ assessment, he said, he saw plenty of room for improvement. He said the tasks were too easy for high school students and required too much repetition, more like a busy job than a critical thinking test. The company also needs to work on the technical side, he said.

“It was basically like a low budget video game,” he said.

He noted that the program didn’t perform well on a basic Chromebook, often lagging behind and in some cases loading so slowly that students couldn’t complete tasks.

That’s good information because the company is looking at what is required for this type of assessment to work in a K-12 setting, Snow said.

“It helps us understand the limits we have to work with,” she said.

Peak to Peak director Taylor Gallo said she was excited about the idea of ​​alternatives to standardized testing, noting that they generally rely more on memorization than critical thinking. She also wants colleges to look past averages on test scores, which can mask a student’s true preparation for college.

“A number does not define an individual,” she said.

After trying the Imbellus assessment, she said, she wasn’t sure it was hard enough to demonstrate college readiness.

“I didn’t feel like this was a competitive program that could replace these big, standardized tests that we go through,” she said.

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