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Monday, May 7, 2018

Online Testing May Widen Achievement Gap

Proponents say computer-based standardized tests are more secure than traditional paper-and-pencil testing, can be scored faster, and allow questions to be designed more innovatively. They also see online testing as good preparation for students facing a job market that more and more emphasizes tech capabilities.

However, some educators say that moving to computerized testing is actually increasing an achievement gap they’ve worked for years to shrink.

Pew Research Center analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data in 2015 found that about five million households with school-aged children didn’t have a high-speed Internet connection at home; many of those were low-income black or Hispanic households.

A March 2017 Pew post indicated that the divide persists, with nearly half of households with an annual income below $30,000 not having broadband service or a desktop or laptop computer at home. Researchers report that the majority of teachers in poor districts claim their students aren’t prepared to take online tests. Some schools have so few computers that each student only gets access once a week.

“Putting the test online just sets the city kids three steps back,” Jessica Shiller, associate professor of education at Towson University, Towson, MD, told The Washington Post. “It’s more a measure of income than skill.”

Instructors are put in the unenviable position of having to teach both class content and computer use to prepare their students for high-stakes tests such as the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) tests, which cover English and mathematics for grades 3-11.

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