Ohio to Institute Online Standardized Testing

Elementary school students in Ohio will make the switch to online standard- ized testing at the start of the 2014 school year. This method, designed by the Part- nership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, is advertised as a better indication of students’ overall per- formance in mathematics, reading and a variety of other academic subjects.

The new tests, which have been under construction for the past two years, have already been implemented in most states around the country and are now undergo- ing trials in 2,000 select Ohio schools with students in grades three through eight.

According to Ohio Technology Integra- tion Specialist Eric Curts, a main impetus for the switch is to unify the test and pre- vent variations across districts.

“We’ve had standardized tests forever,” Curts said. “Their purpose is trying to get a standardized take on how well students are achieving standards. But if you leave it up to each district then you have varia- tions. Some districts will have a more dif-

ficult test than another. So all states want a tool like the SAT that gives a fairer repre- sentation of how students are achieving.”

Curts also said that the online tests di- verge from the “bubble-filling” approach of current testing, allowing students to more aptly demonstrate their intelligence.

“[For] some of the questions it’s almost like you have to run a highly interactive experiment and draw conclusions be- tween multiple answers,” Curts said. “It’s not just a simple question [like], ‘here’s this plus this.’ So it really shows a deeper understanding than previous tests.”

“I think it’s too soon to say if this is go- ing to be better than just pencil and paper. But I think it has forced schools to start taking technology seriously. So if nothing else comes out of it, at least schools are updating devices and [will] be able to use computers and wireless in great ways in the future,” Curts said.

According to Curts, two other advan- tages of the new tests are reduced mate- rial cost and more straightforward score analysis. Although Curts trusts the inten- tions of the new design, many speculate about possible technological constraints.

Restrictions on the new testing sys- tem include the fact that many schools don’t have enough functional computers to administer the tests, and that many students aren’t taught how to use a com- puter, significantly hindering their ability to perform.

In light of these concerns, Curts said that he plans to make technological edu- cation one of his priorities.

“It’s been a big stress on schools be- cause to take these tests online… you’ve got to have computers,” Curts said. “A lot of schools don’t have enough devices or connectivity. So my focus has been trying to help give students skills using comput- ers. There [are] some schools where all the computers are old and no one uses them, and these tests require you to know how to use them. Plotting points, typing — these are things they’ll have to know, so they won’t [only] be graded on how smart they are but also how good they are with computing skills.”

Director of Professional Development and Assistant Professor of Education Nan- cy Varian said she believes that these tests have the potential to be helpful but aren’t

always a good tool to help struggling stu- dents improve their skillsets.

“I think one of the biggest concerns is that it’s become almost overkill. There are so many assessments being done, even at the kindergarten level,” Varian said. “The teachers don’t have time to teach. An