Vicki Kerman’s concern about Computer Based Testing led her to make a presentation before the State Board of Education on Feb. 14.
Her five minute discourse was followed by 25 minutes of questions from board members.
Speaking during the Public Participation portion of the board’s meeting, Kerman, a three year member of the Cardington-Lincoln Board of Education, prefaced her message, saying “I am not speaking on behalf of the board, I am speaking on behalf of students.”
During her presentation, she argued that “computer based testing shows mastery of using the device rather than mastery of the content, and this was supported by both peer-based research and data from Ohio test scores.” She relayed feedback which she had received from teachers at Cardington and other districts, namely that many of the younger students did not know how to scroll through the required reading passages and that for the extended response questions, some students sat there until the time ran out, as they were overwhelmed by having to key in paragraphs. She pointed out “Having to take the test on computer inhibited students’ ability to show what they really knew in the areas for which they were being tested, namely language arts and math.” She also pointed to the state’s Writing Standards, which specify that a third grader will use a computer with the guidance and support of an adult.
“Clearly there is a disconnect between what the standard says should be taught, and the level of performance expected on these tests,” she said. “The students are just overwhelmed.”
Leading up to her presentation at this level, Kerman said she was contacted in January, 2017, as a school board member, by a call from a parent of a third grade parent in her district whose son had taken the November testsa nd was “forced” to take it on a computer.
The parent explained the student has an IEP for SLD (speech/language). Kerman, who holds a masters in early childhood education, said she was confused as to why a student with such a disability was not allowed the accommodation of taking the test on paper.
That led to her further investigation into the matter. She checked with the local school superintendent who referred her to ODE’s Accessibility Manual which states ( in a nutshell) that a unless a student has a complex health related disability or an emotional/behavioral condition which makes the student unable to take the computer based test, the student must do so.
Continuing to “dig,” Kerman learned that in the spring of 2016, after the release of the 2015 report cards, Michael Molnar of the Amherst Exempted School District, surveyed all 608 districts to find out whether they used paper or computer test administration. He looked at the Value Added Grade for the two groups and found that more districts administering by computer saw a large drop in their grade while those continuing to use paper remained the same or even rose. This was reported in several publications.
Kerman’s study confirmed this. Those districts using paper tests in 2015 consistently reported superior results over 2014 than those using computer tests.
She gave an in- depth report on her findings to the local board of education on February 13, the eve of her appearance before the State Board of Education
Following her five minute presentation to the State Board of Education, members asked questions for another 25 minutes. They also asked for her recommendation with board member Pat Bruns asking if the state should “take a deeper dive” into identifying when to introduce technology for state tests, saying that the tools needed to be appropriate.
Kerman agreed- “Slow down,” she said. “Take the time to identify truly at what age we can expect students to be proficient enough at using a computer to be able to show mastery of the material, to work with vendors to make sure that the computer and paper versions are comparable, and to survey districts for the kinds of computers they are using. Only after this problem has been solved should the State reintroduce computer based testing.”
Kerman is currently following up with a survey of all districts to compare district results in computer and paper based testing for the 2016 tests.
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