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ERIC Number: ED525099
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 2011-Oct
Pages: 26
Abstractor: ERIC
Reference Count: 11
Does Diagnostic Math Testing Improve Student Learning?
Betts, Julian R.; Hahn, Youjin; Zau, Andrew C.
Public Policy Institute of California
The Mathematics Diagnostic Testing Project (MDTP) offers course-specific assessments that provide teachers with timely feedback on their students' strengths and weaknesses in mathematics, often returning feedback to teachers on individual students and the entire class within a week of testing. In this way, teachers can quickly act on what they learn about their students' mathematics skills. This study examines the effect of MDTP testing on students' mathematics achievement, using detailed student-level data from the San Diego Unified School District (SDUSD), the second largest district in California. The MDTP has in fact been used in two ways in the district. First, many math teachers have voluntarily used the tests for their classes. Second, beginning in 1999-2000, the district began mandating end-of-year testing of all students in certain grades. The goal of this mandatory testing was to help teachers place students in mathematics classes of appropriate difficulty in the following academic year. Schools also used MDTP test results to help identify students who should attend summer school. The authors find that mandatory MDTP testing boosts scores on the CST math test enough to move students up several percentile points. For instance, the median student (who ranked at the 50th percentile) in one year rises to somewhere between the 54.6th and the 57th percentile, on average, a year after the district-mandated testing. Compared to other types of interventions, these are strong and noteworthy gains. They also found that if a student is given an MDTP test two years in a row, the benefits that accrue the year following the first test strengthen in the second year. Several policy implications emanate from these findings. More districts could use the MDTP or a similar test not only to help diagnose an individual student's weaknesses in math, but also to direct assistance to all students lagging behind. San Diego's policy of steering struggling students to summer school is only one of many possible such interventions. Second, the idea of using diagnostic tests to steer students toward an appropriate math class for the following year appears to have produced tangible benefits. Districts might want to consider using the MDTP for this purpose. Third, at least in San Diego, the effects of diagnostic testing wear off if the testing is administered in only one year. Repeated diagnostic monitoring across grades could reap tangible benefits over the course of a students' career. (Contains 5 figures, 2 tables and 11 footnotes.)
Public Policy Institute of California. 500 Washington Street Suite 800, San Francisco, CA 94111. Tel: 415-291-4400; Fax: 415-291-4401; Web site:
Publication Type: Reports - Research
Education Level: Elementary Secondary Education; High Schools; Middle Schools; Secondary Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: Donald Bren Foundation
Authoring Institution: Public Policy Institute of California
Identifiers - Location: California
Identifiers - Laws, Policies, & Programs: No Child Left Behind Act 2001