Rooted in Reason: Nurturing the Seeds of Liberty

Online Testing: not the right move by grassroothawaii
July 22, 2010, 9:51 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

By Hideo Hikida

Continuing on the theme of education from the post I wrote yesterday, it seems that Hawaii Public Schools are going to be switching from the traditional paper and pencil test to a new online testing initiative. Starting this fall, all public schools will be administering both their reading and math proficiency tests through online test servers with seemingly more relaxed guidelines to encourage better test results in light of the new upcoming scholastic proficiency (achievement) benchmarks.

What are these relaxed guidelines I speak of? Instead of the traditional, “take the test once and take the score you get” method, these online tests guidelines will allow students to take these proficiency tests up to three times, with only the highest score being counted on record. Another perk for students: they will be allowed to take 20 minute breaks, thereby pausing the test, and will be allowed to return to the section. Students in grades 3-8 and grade 10 will be able to take the test during an eight-month period from October to May.

With scholastic proficiency still ranking rather low on the national scale (67% proficient in reading, 49% proficient in math), I caution you from believing that Hawaii’s educational system is becoming better. Articles will use great wording to point towards increases in proficiency but the fact remains that in the State of Hawaii, all a student must do to demonstrate “proficiency” in reading and math is score 58% and 46% on the respective proficiency test.

So after knowing the proficiency benchmarks, it’s downright embarrassing that only 67% and 49% of our children can score above 58% and 46% on a proficiency test.

The new online test initiative will only serve to skew the data even more, further hiding the lack of competency our Department of Education demonstrates on a daily basis. First off, what’s going to stop children from using the computers to look up the answers to the tests during testing? I’m sure safeguards exist to prevent this sort of action, but cheating has come a long way. It seemed that only a couple of years ago, cheating was bringing a little cheat sheet into a test and siphoning answers of your buddy next to you. Now, people are programming phones and computers and coming up with rather ingenious ways of circumventing the testing process. In the age of iPhones, iPads and laptops for students, finding ways around a test are easier than ever. Switching to an online, electronic form of testing is only going to add to the problems; seemingly like the way the country is still struggling to adopt the new electronic voting process in elections.

Secondly, kids are allowed to take the test three times!? I don’t know about you but when I took a test, that was it. No retest(s). The scores were set in stone. Unchanging. If you didn’t study and got a bad grade, that was due to your error in not studying hard enough. Can you imagine if anyone of you got a second, even a third chance to take a test? Maybe I’m just a traditionalist.

Lastly, the state is spending about $12 million on the online test…about $2 million more than the paper test.

Do our public schools have online testing protocols in place already? New rules have to be made, new infrastructure has to be created to accommodate this new online test. Do new computers have to be purchased? Do staff have to trained to troubleshoot the online testing infrastructure?

Call me a skeptic but in about 5 months, I expect a bunch of problems arising from this new online testing system. More shading funding for select schools for new computers, overpaying for staff training and tech problems  are issues that are  surely going to be raised in the coming months. Yes. I’m calling it now. You heard it here first.


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