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Positives seen to online testing

December 2, 2011

Wapakoneta City Schools Superintendent Keith Horner

Starting in 2014, Ohio school districts are to be use new state tests of common core curriculum.
The new tests are to be implemented in 45 states and the District of Columbia, but they come with a catch, they must be taken online, replacing the traditional paper and pencil standardized tests Ohio students have been taking.
Many school administrators, including those at Wapakoneta City Schools, have spoken favorably about the idea of online testing, but the switch that format has created concern with some about who is responsible for paying for computers and software upgrades needed for the new system.
“This is all very new and that means that the real impact is still being discovered,” Wapakoneta City Schools Superintendent Keith Horner said. “I expect the implementation of the online testing to be very helpful when schools, teachers and students get used to this process and the state works out any bugs.
“The fact that we can get results almost immediately is a phenomenal improvement compared to waiting three to four months like we currently do,” he said. “The common core curriculum will have a huge impact on what we do as the curriculum that we teach will become less, but will be much more in depth.”
Wapakoneta City Schools Director of Instruction Julie Miars Golden expects the change to be a positive one, although like others she has to wait and see as more specifics unfold.
If it works as proposed, Miars Golden said teachers could have data results back the same day a student is tested, do some intervention and then allow them to be re-tested in a couple weeks.
The online system also is expected to take care of security concerns and save time and money spent packing and unpacking 35 boxes of testing materials used now.
As for paying for the changes, Miars Golden said Wapakoneta City Schools is in better shape than most because of the strong technology plan that’s been in place in the district for 10 years.
She said technology options, for example at Wapakoneta Elementary School, would allow students to be tested in one of two computer labs at the same time as a class. They also could be tested in the classroom on one of four computers and just a few students at a time.
There’s also been some discussion that students may be able to use their own devices, such as iPads, to take the tests.
Administrators and teachers are to know more as specifics of the testing become clearer.
“2014-15 (when online testing is expected to start) is a long time out,” Miars Golden said. “There could be many changes in technology that could make it all look different.”
She said she’s anxious to see how it all unfolds and a pilot year planned for some school districts in 2013-14 should provide a better look at how testing is going to work and offer feedback, including what kinks may still need worked out.
State officials say the new reading, language arts and math tests being developed are to test new, national common core academic standards.
The online testing represents a major change in test-taking in Ohio with students sitting in front of computers answers questions online or in video form several times a year rather than filling in multiple-choice bubbles or writing extended responses on answer sheets.
Instead of testing students once a year, the new online tests probably will be taken at least twice a year, Ohio Department of Education spokesman Dennis Evans said.
Grade levels to be tested are still under discussion. Students in third through eighth grades are tested annually each spring under the current Ohio Achievement Assessments and sophomores take the Ohio Graduation Test, which can be retaken until they pass. Online testing could involve grades not being tested now, by beginning earlier in elementary or extending into upper high school grades.
It’s likely that end-of-course exams would be required for many core high school subjects, for example possibly using a test for algebra or chemistry, instead of generalized tests in subject areas of math or science, state officials said.
 The cost for the state and school districts to transition to the new tests remains unknown.
Evans said they are continuing to discuss how the tests will be implemented and what resources could be used to help fund them.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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