Reitz High School

Reitz High School
Evansville, IN

Friday, February 7, 2014

Valid Concerns with eTesting

I would like to start off by making a couple statements.  If you are a regular reader of my blog, then you probably already know my opinion on standardized testing.  The first statement is that I am not a fan of high stakes standardized testing.  I don't normally do this, but before we get too far, I would like to recommend an article that talks about alternatives to high stakes standardized testing that have been successful.  You can find it at http://goo.gl/9ueeQ1.  Check that out, it is a quick and easy read.  The second statement is that I am a big fan of eTesting, but a recent conversation with a group of teachers may have swayed my opinion.  They at least have given me something to think about.

This week the state of Indiana's Department of Education conducted a readiness test to see if all devices, networks, and the test system were ready to handle the load of our high stakes state wide ISTEP testing that will take place in April.  The test did not go as I had hoped.  Recently, our school district has experienced some major issues with the wireless network, due to an upgrade, that has left many teachers scrambling for some pencil and paper alternatives.  After a very frustrating few weeks, I really wanted the readiness test to go well.  It was a disaster.  In one classroom that I visited, only four students out of twenty-five were able to connect without issues and get into the test.

Shortly after our test, I met with a group of seventh grade teachers.  Thinking I was going to provide some PD and show them a tool or two, instead the meeting became a kill the messenger session.  I sat in front of what felt like was a firing line of teachers that were hot under the collar about doing high stakes testing online.  As their eLearning coach, I pushed our agenda aside and listened to their concerns.  I want my teachers to understand that I am in this with them and they are not alone.  What I heard from them made some sense.

The concern was the frustration of the connectivity.  We had just had a horrible experience just trying to connect to the test module.  Unfortunately, it was like this last year as well.  It was so bad that McGraw Hill/CTB had to pull the plug in the middle of testing because their system could not handle the load of students that were testing at one time.  This occurred multiple days in a row and caused quite a stir.  When you tie teachers' evaluations, pay raises, individual school funding and status to one test that we cannot even stay connected to, it goes over like a lead balloon.

The other concerns were the speed and screen size of the devices that our students will be using for the test.   The majority of our students in our district will be taking the test on Dell Netbooks.  The screens are not huge and they are not fastest machines ever.  In some school districts across the state, students may be using a lab of Mac desktop computers.  Those students would be able to see the entire question screen without having to scroll up and down just to read a question and see the answers.  The students using the computer lab can also go from one question to the next in a second or less.  The netbooks sometimes hang between the questions and can take up to 5 to 7 seconds to get from one question to the next.  During a timed test, this can not only be frustrating, it puts our students at a disadvantage because they have less time to take the test.


After listening to the teachers, I realized they had some valid concerns.  With these issues, we no longer have an even or standard playing field.  I still am not convinced enough to go back to pencil and paper, but perhaps some changes and considerations need to be made depending on the device that students use to take the test.  What do you think?  Please share by leaving some comments.

 

          

 

2 comments:

  1. Nice job, Jeff!

    Two things that make me cringe are netbooks and networks during testing. I heard the readiness test did not go well. My hope is that those who make the major decisions concerning testing in Indiana use common sense and put the students first.

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  2. Thank you Laura for your input! I really appreciate the feedback!

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