Schools gear up for computer test trial run

As Glendale Unified prepares to use computers to test students on the new Common Core State Standards this coming spring, school officials are planning to sample three different computers for select students and teachers to use this month in order to gain feedback on which device could emerge as the best testing tool.

With the approval of Assembly Bill 484 by Gov. Jerry Brown earlier this month, California schools have been authorized to transition from the current state standardized testing system, known as STAR, to new computerized exams that better reflect the new standards.

Using the new Smarter Balanced computerized test, a student’s correct answer to a question will prompt a more difficult question. A wrong answer will spur the computer to respond with an easier question. Some educators say the new system is superior to the multiple-choice test and lets teachers know a student’s strengths and weaknesses more precisely.

But as school officials begin to transition, some question whether all of California’s schools will be ready for the computerized exams as districts work to update their wireless infrastructure and purchase enough computers for students.

In Glendale, Supt. Dick Sheehan said the school district has been able to update its wireless infrastructure, largely because voters approved the Measure S bond.

His only concern about the new testing system concerns the availability of computers from companies that may see high demand from various California school districts as they approach the testing season, which will occur from mid-March to June.

“We are comfortable, should we receive the technology from the companies. We are one of 1,000 districts, and if we’re all ordering Chromebooks, there’s going to be a shortage of Chromebooks. That would be the one thing that hinders this,” Sheehan said during Tuesday’s school board meeting.

He added that some schools in rural California towns still do not have Internet access.

“This is a big challenge for the state,” Sheehan said.

Glendale school officials will deliver three different laptop or notebook computers to one elementary school, one middle school and one high school for a single class at each site to use over three days.

Officials hope to collect feedback about the computers from students and teachers by the end of October.

“We can then have some knowledge to see what the best device is to move forward,” said Lynn Marso, assistant superintendent of Glendale Unified.

Desktop computers in each of the schools’ computer labs will also be used during the testing period next year.

Students in third through eighth grades and those in the 11th grade will be tested in either the math portion or English part of the new computerized exam.

But according to school officials, neither the schools nor the students will receive results from the first round of exams taken next year.

“This year, it’s basically testing the test,” Marso said.


Follow Kelly Corrigan on Twitter: @kellymcorrigan


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