Many schools are moving toward computerized testing. There won’t be anymore #2 pencils or fill in the bubble on the blue test sheets.
Bubble sheets and No. 2 pencils will make way for tablets and keyboards. Students will wear headphones and might listen to audio clips. Even the youngest test-takers in third and fourth grades will be required to type instead of write.
It’s coming soon.
Some students across the state will take practice exams this spring designed to try out a new set of standardized tests that will be taken on computers and tablets.
And as state education officials determine how soon to switch to the new tests, local school districts are buying new equipment and using more technology in lessons to prepare for digital exams.
But the move to computerized tests has also raised concerns about whether it will put some students at a disadvantage.
“In the previous years, everybody had access to their brains and a pencil,” said Paul Connelly, superintendent of Springville-Griffith Institute.
“And now we have people who are rocket scientists with technology and people who have nothing with technology, and to make that dependent upon a child’s progress is extremely unfair in my eyes.”
New York State is part of a partnership of states that is using federal Race to the Top education funds to create a new series of standardized reading, writing and math tests that students will take on computers and tablets.
The new tests will be available next school year, and state education officials plan to replace the existing state English and math exams for third through 12th grade with computer-based tests within the next few years.
The idea is to improve the way technology is incorporated into test-taking, giving students practice for a future in which an increasing number of school and work assignments are done online and improving the way schools and states score tests and evaluate the exams.
But the change from paper and pencil to computer-based testing has also raised “serious issues” along with the potential benefits, said Pixita del Prado Hill, associate professor of elementary education and reading at SUNY Buffalo State.
Aside from the cost of updating school technology to administer the tests, districts will need to teach students to type well enough to write essays and to prepare them for doing more school work on the computer.
Just the size of a regular keyboard compared with a child’s hands will be a factor, del Prado Hill said.