How other states will be able to rapidly upgrade computers and Internet access in a slow economy is “the $64,000 question,” said Douglas A. Levin, executive director of the State Educational Technology Directors Association. “Probably add a few more zeros there,” he said.
As of June 2011, 33 states were administering some online tests, but it was usually on a small scale, according to the latest survey by the national association. Those that signed on to national standards known as the Common Core — including 45 states and the District — are scheduled to move to online testing in reading and math by 2014-15.
Advocates say online tests can offer faster results, more complex questions and fewer opportunities for test tampering. But the new tests, under development by two consortia of states with $330 million in federal funding, pose a massive technology challenge for school districts.
They also are shining a spotlight on the nagging issue of inequity. Some schools do not have access to high-speed Internet.
The recent rush to online testing has led to a spate of glitches and blips that many say are a harbinger of greater problems to come. New online tests administered this spring in Oklahoma, Minnesota, Indiana and Kentucky were interrupted by widespread technical problems and slow loading times. Many students had to start over.
Outsize technical hurdles are one reason leaders in some states are looking to slow implementation of the national standards, which governors nationwide heralded just two years ago as a critical strategy to ensure the nation’s international competitiveness. Teachers’ and principals’ evaluations are increasingly tied to results, but leading educators are calling for a moratorium on repercussions from the tests during the transition.
Officials from Maryland and the District, both aligned to the national standards, said this week that they are on track to roll out full-scale online testing in 2014-15. But so far, the District has administered the DC CAS health assessment online in only 14 schools. In Maryland, science tests have been administered online for about five years, but no other computer-based tests are given statewide.
Virginia education officials never signed on to the national standards, in part because they said it would be too disruptive to upend instruction and tests. They did update the state’s learning standards, though, with the national standards as a guide.