District-Wide Assessments

Satisfying PPS Needs with OWL Solutions

Create/Share Large Item Bank

PPS wanted to both standardize assessments and to enhance instructor efficiency. The district's goal was to have a large enough task bank of items that would allow instructors to create new tests easily with a few clicks of a button.

Tool for Low-Stakes Testing

PPS wanted a test management system that could be responsive and be used everyday in the classroom for quizzes and regular in-class, achievement and proficiency testing.

Pre- and Post-Achievement

These tests are primarily multiple choice and are given in several grades to demonstrate student progression from the beginning of the year to the end. PPS sought an efficient way to deliver and report on these exams.

High-Stakes Testing

PPS wanted to create, deliver, assess and report on "high stakes" SOPI-like testing at 2-3 year intervals. They wished to follow the basic oral proficiency interview format of both the ACTFL OPI and CAL’s SOPI.

Structured Rating System

PPS required the test management system to have an integrated rating module to allow assessment of oral response activities to be performed in an automated and structured way. They wanted the ratings to occur using within the system using standardized rubrics.

Many Languages & Levels

The system had to be flexible and user-friendly enough to be used by students in all grades of study. The district wished to create tests for varying proficiency levels across seven different languages.

Vehicle for Student Feedback

In addition to testing, the district wanted to provide students with direct feedback on their oral responses. They were looking for a tool to give students a way to directly monitor their progress and give them information for improvement. They wanted a tool that could capture and maintain student response data over the long term.

OWL Instructor Users

Teachers are able to create their own OWL activities to respond to specific student learning needs and view a gradebook report of ongoing student progress throughout the semester.

Response Data Warehouse

OWL not only makes it easy to deliver and auto-score multiple choice exams, but also has a built-in reporting feature which allows these pre- and post-test results to be easily compared within and across languages.

Flexible Test Builder

Using the many features for creating and presenting oral response items, PPS was able to create an online assessment following the format of warm-up, level checks, probes at a higher level, and wind down.

Integrated Rating Module

Custom or industry rubrics can be uploaded to evaluate responses within OWL. The OWL TMS can automatically manage the distribution of blind assessment requests. Users designate the number of assessment requests, primary and secondary raters and the method of finalization.

Target Language Audio

OWL simple test taker interface combined with the target language audio feature were the perfect fit. Users can create a single assessment that can be delivered to students in each of the languages of study.

OWL Results Publishing

By publishing results in OWL, PPS students can log back in to read or listen to specific assessment feedback left directly on their individual response. OWL also offers a way to create electronic student portfolios. This is a powerful way for students to hear their progress over the course of their entire academic career.


About | Pittsburgh Public Schools (PPS) is the largest of 43 school districts in Allegheny County and second largest in Pennsylvania. PPS serves approximately 26,000 students in Kindergarten through Grade 12 in 66 schools. The district has approximately 34% of its overall student population enrolled in a foreign language program.

Background | Understanding the importance of oral proficiency development in language learning, Pittsburgh Public Schools’ world language administrators sought a simple yet sophisticated way to test its students’ speaking and listening skills. The district was looking for an online test management system that would enable them to collect and rate student speech samples across 66 schools to more than 8000 students.

Results | Pittsburgh Public Schools uses OWL to create, deliver, assess and report on "high stakes" SOPI-like testing at 2-3 year intervals. PPS follows the basic format of both the ACTFL OPI and CAL’s SOPI: warm-up, level checks, probes at a higher level, and a wind down.

By using OWL Testing Software, the district administers more than 1,700 high-stakes oral proficiency assessments each year, as well as 2,000 reading and listening exams this year alone. Not only does OWL Testing Software streamline what had been a difficult process, but the district can easily gather valuable data to determine the effectiveness of their curricula, teaching methods, and rubrics.

Other Applications | Practice Activities for Language Students: These activities are used to build students' vocabulary in a way that resembles a game. PPS used a competition between classes and schools to generate a high volume of data on the effectiveness of using computerized testing as a learning tool. For more on this subject check out this blog post (PPS World Language Competition) on a district-wide world language competition.

Teacher Candidate Assessments: These tests are used to demonstrate teacher candidate proficiency as part of the hiring screening process. The teacher candidate tests consist of a primary section which is a SOPI-like test. The second and third sections consist of speaking and writing questions about general knowledge of the language and culture.


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