One of our themes this school year is “Change.” Teachers are changing how and what they teach, and students are changing their approach to learning.
This is an exciting time in education because everything we are doing is new. Since teachers are changing their methods of teaching, it only seems natural that we also change the method in which students are assessed.
This is the first school year that we are assessing a large number of our students online. By 2014-15, the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction has the goal to administer all tests in the public schools online.
In order to meet this goal, we will administer the following tests online: NCEXTEND 2 Reading, Math & Science; Grade 8 Science, English II and Biology Honors for the 2012-13 school year. Over the past few years, we have participated in several field tests requiring online testing, but this is the first year we will offer both End of Grade and End of Course Assessments online.
Our current picture of testing in our schools will change dramatically with the implementation of online testing. Not all students will test at the same time simply because there are neither enough computers nor Internet access to facilitate this.
Students will begin testing earlier in the school year in order to ensure all students complete testing. Students may not test in the same room in which they are taught on a daily basis. Teachers will not be responsible for keeping up with test books and answer sheets. In order for students to become accustomed with testing online, all students must complete a tutorial to familiarize themselves with the system.
In order to be prepared for this new venture, our technology and testing departments have worked closely to ensure we are ready. We have purchased iPads and laptops that have been distributed to schools to help facilitate online testing.
Last school year, our technology department completed a survey to gauge our readiness. In the study, strengths and weaknesses were identified at each school. Plans are in effect to address those weaknesses to minimize issues that may occur once students begin testing. Training has been scheduled to train all appropriate school personnel.
We know this is going to be a huge undertaking for all involved. We know that there are a great number of questions and unknowns. We know some teachers and students are fearful of online testing. Most importantly, we know that change is inevitable.
We cannot wait until 2014-15 to begin testing all of our students online. We know that we must take that proverbial first step. That first step starts with the courses listed previously. We believe when all is said and done, our students and teachers will see the benefits of online testing.
For information, or to view a version of an online assessment, visit http://www.ncpublicschools.org/accountability/testing/releasedforms.
Johnny Hunt is the superintendent of the Public Schools of Robeson County.