Surpass Conference 2020 – Day 2 in brief

As another day at the first virtual Surpass conference drew to a close and the community went off to relax with a bit of virtual socialising and networking, we reflected on some of the highlights from another day of inspiring presentations.

Day 2 began with a keynote presentation from Harry Patrinos, World Bank Education.

With more than 90% of the world’s learners impacted, Harry explored the true cost of school closures as a result of COVID-19. There were some truly alarming statistics about the predicted long-term impact from loss of learning and loss of future earnings as a result of the pandemic.

He also drew upon past events to highlight the long-lasting effect of loss of learning due to the pandemic, including long-term reduced incomes, and loss of GDP.

Some of the actions Harry called out as needed to build an effective response to the impact of the pandemic included, investment in emergency connectivity and IT infrastructure, production of digital content, and build institutional capacity.

The sessions concluded with an insightful Q+A, something that had already started in the live chat due to the conferences new ‘virtual’ format,

Delegates then left the main conference stream to join a variety of user group breakout sessions, on topics such as the future of test creation, standard setting, and the new Surpass help site. From the feedback shared later in the day it seems that these sessions were all extremely productive, and sparked some interesting conversations amongst delegates!

Watch out for a roundup of these sessions in the near future.

We then returned to the main stage with more Community Stories.

Dr. Lori Severino and Dr. Mary Jean Tecce DeCarlo from the School of Education at Drexel University were the first to present, and shared with the community their research and work to develop ACE (Adolescent Comprehension Evaluation) a much-needed solution for the assessment of reading comprehension ability for students in grades 6-8.

Research conducted by Drexel University found that inadequate teaching instruction for reading comprehension was having a significant impact on schools and learners, so ACE was designed to give teachers a quick and easy way to assess students’ progress. The assessment is designed and delivered in Surpass, with detailed post-test data used to better inform teaching instruction.

The reading texts themselves have also been specifically designed to reduce bias, and, in what’s believed to be the first use of brain-based technology, oxygen levels in the brain were monitored validate that performance relies on the student understanding the text, and not on prior experience, culture, or socioeconomic background.

After giving an overview of the research that led to ACE, Lori and MJ gave an overview of their decision to transition to Surpass, and explored some of the Surpass functionality being utilised to make ACE come to life.

‘Once we understood everything Surpass had to offer, it became an easy decision…Moving to Surpass allows the team to tackle our next big challenge – testing out five-pronged validation process and the assessment itself with a national sample of students’.

Mary Jean Tecce DeCarlo

Our second Community Story was from Amanda Dainis, CEO and Lead Psychometrician at Dainis and Company. Amanda discussed validity in exam development, exploring this in the context of both in-person and remote test development activities.

Amanda gave an overview of a four-branch validity model for certification exams, corresponding to the different steps of the test development process – Job Task Analysis (JTA), Item Writing, Standard Setting and Auditing of Results.

With each step, Amanda drew a comparison between conducting these activities, in-person or remotely. Whilst some remote activities may have a longer timeframe or require more planning than an in-person workshop, Amanda highlighted features such as standard setting in Surpass which allows parts of the process to easily and securely be conducted remotely for the first time.

With many organisations recently having to transition to remote activities, our live poll of conference delegates indicated that most would be continuing some remote activities going forward.

One of the fall-outs from the pandemic is that even when things go back to ‘normal’…a lot of people are going to end up doing this virtually anyway because we’re really discovering the tools and creating the processes that allow us to do it just as well as we would it person. So I would encourage you to explore those options now, and not let any of them hold you back from launching your programme.

Amanda Dainis

It’s been a fantastic week so far, and there’s more yet to come as we approach day 3 of the Surpass Conference! We hope to see many of you there for the final day.