Online testing of students: Will Florida be ready?

Central Florida school administrators are fearing technology snarls and scheduling nightmares when thousands of high-school students start taking standardized math exams on computers next school year, reports the Orlando Sentinel. Many local high schools do not have enough computers, sufficient network access, or even the right rooms to securely test hundreds of students online, educators say. In another tight budget year, finding money for needed upgrades—they could cost $750,000 in Seminole County alone—isn’t easy. Florida’s track record with computer-based testing is short and problem-plagued, adding to administrators’ apprehension about the test change. The debut of the state’s online reading test last fall and its trial run of computerized FCAT and algebra exams this spring both were marred by mishaps. And there is the potential for even more trouble in coming years, administrators fear, as the number of computer-based standardized tests increases. Next spring, some 370,000 ninth- and 10th-graders statewide are to take online the math section of the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test and a new algebra end-of-course exam. A smaller number of older students is scheduled to take FCAT math online in the fall. A survey by the Florida Department of Education this spring showed that only two districts deemed themselves fully ready for computer-based testing…

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