With online testing on the horizon, infrastructure could be a challenge

Within a few years, school districts in most states will have to have enough computers to allow students to take multiple tests online throughout the school year.

With new online tests being designed to reflect the Common Core standards adopted by 45 states and the District of Columbia, school districts in these states will have to replace pencil-and-paper testing with the new online exams as soon as the 2014-15 school year. But school leaders are unsure how the computers and software needed for such a move will be funded.

Last year, the federal Education Department doled out more than $300 million in Race to the Top funding to two groups of states to create next-generation assessments tied to the Common Core standards.

One of these groups, the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC), includes 23 states and the District of Columbia. The other group, the SMARTER Balanced Assessment Consortium, includes 28 states. For now, Alabama, Colorado, Kentucky, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, and South Carolina belong to both consortia—and Alaska, Minnesota, Nebraska, Texas, and Virginia belong to neither.…Read More

Spell-check use on writing exam prompts debate

Spell check will be activated for use as an allowable resource for the 2010-11 Oregon Statewide Writing Assessment.
Spell check will be activated for use as an allowable resource for the 2010-11 Oregon Statewide Writing Assessment.

A decision by the Oregon Department of Education to let students use a computer spell-check feature when taking an online version of the state’s writing exam this year has raised some concerns among stakeholders, prompting a larger discussion about what skills students should be tested on in the digital age.

State officials say the move comes after consulting with local school systems and education technology experts, and they argue that it’s a natural evolution that more accurately reflects how students compose essays today—and how they’ll continue to write via computer once they move on to college and the workforce.

To some critics, however, the decision spells the end of society as we know it.…Read More

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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