Online State Assessments – Still a Work In Progress

Posted by Matt Berringer on April 14, 2014

By Dr. Ramiro Zuniga

For many years now, states across the country have been trying to fully implement online state assessments for K-12. I find it interesting that the K-12 arena has struggled more than any other in this effort. The idea of online state assessments makes sense, however it is still very much a work in progress.

As with any innovation, there are both advantages and disadvantages. There is no doubt that online state assessments are a natural evolution given the abundance of technology in our schools.

It is relatively easy to see the benefits of online testing:

  • Reduction of test booklets and score sheets and the need to physically secure the materials
  • Reduction of days needed to sort, distribute, and collect test booklets and score sheets
  • Immediate scoring of tests is possible
  • Time restrictions are managed by the computer instead of a test coordinator
  • Elimination of misdirected shipments of test materials and test results
  • Ease of making corrections versus pencil and eraser

It should be noted, though, that there are still many valid concerns that have slowed this evolution across the country.

The most common concerns associated with online testing are as follows:

  • Bandwidth requirements exceed many networks found in schools today
  • Number of students testing far exceeds the number of computers available for testing
  • Many teachers are intimidated by the possibility of hardware or software failure
  • Hardware and software failure during testing leads to high levels of student frustration
  • Many teachers feel that students in lower grades may not be ready for testing via computers
  • Online testing requires the use of physical dividers between test takers which make monitoring more difficult
  • Students may be tempted to simply “click” through the exam
  • Essay questions require manual scoring

Unfortunately, the 2013 testing season was marred by many instances of hardware or state testing software failures. In many cases, tests that had already been started had to be invalidated because of these issues. As a result, students had to retake the entire test again at a later date. It should be noted, however, that these issues were eventually overcome.

I believe that the final rendition of online state assessments will mirror what we are seeing today. State assessments will continue to offer both online and limited paper-based options. The companies creating the online tests will reduce software issues and hardware limitations through better design.

Over time, students and teachers will adapt to online testing.

There is, currently, a push for all 50 states to adopt and administer the same test. I don’t believe that this will come to pass.

It will definitely be interesting to see how testing unfolds this year. This is especially true, considering most states are aiming for a tentative implementation in 2015.

Interested in reading more about formative assessment? READ OUR POST about the recent eSchool News panel discussion, which was sponsored by SunGard K-12 Education.


Topics: assessment