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Freebee Friday: Stop the Copy and Paste Essay

Traffic tools aPlagiarism checking software is de rigueur these days to prevent the copy-and-paste essay from dominating an English or Social Studies class. You can use Traffic Tools’s Plagiarism Checker to look for similarities to popular and obscure texts that are on the Internet by copying anything into its window. It’s good for up to 1,000 words, so the typical school essay should fit. It found four major passages were plagiarized in a 250-word passage I checked out, reporting “0% Unique.”

The good news is that the site has a slew of other tools, like for checking grammar and spelling, but the bad news is that it’s also chock full of banner adds that you’ll have to ignore. Be careful if you use this plagiarism checker because the site also has an Article Rewriter to avoid direct plagiarism. Just paste in the passage and it rewrites it, although the online app delivers gibberish on occasion.

Custom Quizzes

Assessments-gradebookKids Discover Online has just added an Assessment module that lets teachers create customized multidisciplinary quizzes and tests. All you do is choose categories and the program compiles the assessment from the more than 5,000 questions available in social studies and science. If there’s nothing to your liking, go ahead and write your own. There are the expected multiple choice and true/false questions as well as short answer and ones that are meant to foster wide-ranging discussion. The grading of multiple choice and true/false questions is automatic and teachers can mix science questions into a social studies quiz.

Making the Most of Tests

116003bThere’s nothing better for a teacher or district than a good test that provides the needed feedback about the school’s instruction, and Susan’s Brookhart’s How to Make Decisions with Different Kinds of Student Assessment Data” can help interpret what the numbers say and don’t say about students, schools and districts. She explains how her four-quadrant framework for reading into assessments works. It includes examples and specific instances of how actual schools looked at specific test scores. The print and ebook versions edition go for $18.95 and $17.99 for ASCD members and $24.95 and $23.99 for non-members.

What They Really Know

I-ready masterWith Curriculum Associates’ i-Ready Standards Mastery you can plumb the depths of every student’s knowledge on key areas before the big stakes tests are given. Set up on a state by state basis, the assessments cover Common Core reading, math and language requirements and dovetail with i-Ready’s Diagnostic offering for those needing extra help. The program has a variety of question-response formats and its reports show which students are leading and which are lagging.


Freebee Friday: Q&A

Graded_quizzesSchools run on tests, quizzes and all sorts of assessments, but sometimes you need to write your own. iSpring Solution’s Quiz Maker has a free assessment creator that does the basics of asking questions of students well. The full version adds the ability to branch questions and a greater variety of question types. You can try it out for a month, but the quizzes will have an annoying watermark or pay $697 to get the full version. There are educational discounts available.

The New Way to Test

Lexia skilldevelopmentWhy waste valuable teaching time on assessments when you can get the testing out of the way quickly. Lexia Learning’s Reading Assessment for Prescriptive Instructional Data Assessment, or RAPID Assessment is a single test for identifying and monitoring vocabulary knowledge, syntactic knowledge, word recognition and reading comprehension to see who’s at risk and who’s excelling. RAPID uses a computer-based adaptive screener to produce a diagnostic profile of each student that identifies specific strengths and weaknesses to work on as well as links to Lexia instructional plans. It’s aimed at grades 3 to 12.  


Freebee Friday: Quizzables

Fig_evo-academic_reporting-a high resApperson’s Evo assessment platform can now be used for free by educators. The Teacher Edition of the service lets them create online quizzes with everything from multiple choice and true/false questions to short answers and essays. The assessments can be administered online, on paper or a combination of the two and assigned to students as well as shared among other teachers and parents.   




Assessments Put to the Test

Naiku create testWith so much riding on tests today, it’s never been more important that schools get a grip on the actual assessments they’re giving from every possible angle. From making sure that every assessment is important, easy to administer to being as close to uniform from class to class, testing is just as important to the future of the school as it is to every student.

Naiku’s Districts/Schools has a deep library of questions to use and the automatic tabulation of testing results. When the dust has cleared, the service can create insightful reports on student and class progress as well as allow teachers to see who is leading and who is lagging.

Because Naiku is an online service, there’s no software to load. Just log into an account with just about any connected system and get started. In addition to Windows and Mac systems, it works with iPads, Android tablets and Chromebooks. It can even be used with phones and the interface magnifies the question and answer section to make it readable on the small screen.

Naiku importThe best part is that the service requires minimal resources, so older computers will do just fine for administering assessments. In the background, Naiku automatically scores tests as they are taken for nearly instantaneous results. For those schools without the equipment or where the network that doesn’t reach every classroom, teachers can print Naiku assessments and do everything the old fashioned way. The paper tests can be graded manually or scanned and scored using GradeCam software.

Naiku’s green and white interface is bright and works well with low-resolution screens. It has the look of an actual printed test and includes instructions for taking the test at hand. On top of an area to fill in the answers, the test blank has optional sections for the student to fill in his or her confidence level and leave a passage about how he or she felt about the question or subject matter. Unfortunately, schools and districts can’t customize Naiku’s interface beyond adding a picture to the screen.

Tests can have a time-limit or be broken up over several sessions, but Naiku’s online connection is its greatest strength and – unfortunately – weakness. Sure, it allows a wide assortment of systems to be used without loading any extra software for administering the assessments, but it doesn’t work as well offline. Kids can finish tests that were started in online mode if the Internet link is broken or the school-day ends, but that’s about it. They need to wait for network access to submit their answers or start a new test.

Naiku’s test generator is a gem and requires no programming to get the most out of it. You can choose questions in a variety of formats, including multiple-choice or multiple-select, True/False, drag and drop matching, constructed response, passage and essay. While the majority are automatically scored and are quickly posted for viewing by teachers during the exam, some items need to be scored and tabulated manually by a teacher. All grades can be automatically dropped into just about any digital gradebook that the school cares to use.

Naiku teacher screenThe company’s Benchmark Now! Service has a variety of tests available from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt’s Assess2Know Benchmark Item Bank for grades 3 through high school. A school or district can also create a wide assortment of tests from curriculum maps in a matter of minutes. The service includes access to about 45,000 Common Core categorized and aligned questions, but they are not aligned with popular textbooks.

You can add new items from TestGen, ExamView and even import them from existing tests or from .doc, .pdf or .xml sources. In fact, Naiku’s QuickKey wizard can turn just about anything into a test.

Tests can be shared among teachers and administrators or kept private. To reduce cheating, any test can have its questions rotated or scrambled from student to student or class to class.

Naiku covers the full gamut from kindergarten to a high school’s senior classes. Full tests can be shared across a grade, school or district, meaning that there can be a level of standardization to assessments given at different schools for the same class. It also means that teachers can stop reinventing the wheel when it comes to tests.

The tests can contain everything from reading selections to complicated math and science symbols as well as graphs. Questions have been mapped to online curriculum materials that have videos, worksheets and extra practice items. Each assessment can have a time limit and an included countdown clock and when time is up, no answers can be entered. The teacher can transfer the results to a gradebook or go through the questions and answers with the class immediately for greater impact.

Naiku reportWhen the testing is done, Naiku comes into its own. There are reports that can be shared among teachers, local administrators and state education officials. In addition to a longitudinal look at scores, Naiku can quickly prepare reports on a particular subject or individual question as well as each student, class and school. In addition, the service can track how each class is doing on common core areas or specific state requirements.

At $159 per teacher, the annual Naiku subscription is worth every penny. In addition to a free trial, the service has discounts for district-wide deployment, making Naiku a testing service that schools can’t afford not to use. 



Naiku for Districts/Schools

$159 per teacher 

+ Nice library of questions

+ Easy to use testing interface

+ Automatic tabulation of results

+ Several testing formats

+ Real-time response

+ Insightful reports


- Requires online connection


Freebee Friday: Free Grades

Benefits-04McGraw Hill Education’s Engrade’s school management package is complete with everything from assignments and attendance to calendar and testing. The software can be used on its own or as an interface with any currently used SIS system, but for now the system’s gradebook is a freebee to use on its own.


Secure Test-taking

AIR MSThe next assessment your school gives just might leak out of the school’s digital infrastructure if you’re not careful. Microsoft and the American Institutes for Research (AIR) are joining forces to create a secure online test-taking environment, from marking to distribution. Based on Windows 8 and 8.1, it will unfortunately ignore the many schools that still use XP. It should be ready this spring’s test-taking season.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in Tech Tools are strictly those of the author and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Scholastic, Inc.