Computerized state testing disadvantages everyone, especially the poor and vulnerable.
This fact alone should be a Game, Set and Match defeat for computerized state testing.
The fact that the establishment pushes on with computerized testing plans unfazed by the discriminatory harm shows whose best interest they are protecting.
"'When students at Govans Elementary School in North Baltimore took statewide standardized tests last year,' Principal Linda Taylor said, 'some struggled with using a mouse to navigate the online assessment. Some didn't know how to scroll to the appropriate sections. Others grappled with how to highlight information. You're going to stumble if you're struggling to navigate the system before you even look at the questions,' Taylor said."
"Test officials say computers are a more secure way to administer a test, allow for faster scoring and enable more innovative questions...But some Baltimore educators worry it presents yet another hurdle for students from poor families."
"'Putting the test online just sets the city kids three steps back. It's more a measure of income than skill,' said Towson University professor Jessica Shiller, who studies urban education."
Setting up computerized testing at any actual school can be a nightmare.
This fact alone should also be a Game, Set and Match defeat for computerized state testing.
The fact that the establishment pushes on with computerized testing plans unfazed by the chaos they inflict upon instruction suggests that the benefactors of computerized testing are the corporations and bureaucracies, not the schools and students.
Everyone on a real school campus knows that setting up computerized testing is a nightmare.
Commercial computerized testing centers work because they exclusively use dedicated testing devices, are staffed with trained and experienced experts who invest the time to work all of the bugs out, and only use their sites for testing.
It is ridiculous to imagine a reputable testing company permitting a Bring Your Own Device policy, setting up the testing center with whoever happens to be available as their "duty for the day," and then administering the tests in re-purposed science labs, libraries and cafeterias. Any testing center that ran computerized testing the way public schools are forced to run it would lose all credibility, suffer embarrassing technical problems and waste a lot of everyone's time.
The experts claim that computerized testing allows innovative test question design. Maybe it could, but the actual tests forced upon children by these experts are filled with design failures like forcing students to meticulously try to drag and drop with touch pads rather than simply selecting an answer, hiding necessary information on inconvenient "pop-up menus" and prohibiting students from reviewing their work because they lose access to previous questions as they move through the test. Not to mention frequent errors such as failing to provide the correct selection in a multiple-choice item, evidence of shoddy quality control as they are always building this airplane while they fly it, with our children as passengers.
Despite the glowing computerized testing promises and endorsements of "experts," "consultants," "vendors" and Bill Gates, the reality is really bad.
Yet the State Department of Education bureaucrats push ahead with the long-term computerized testing plans.
Here are some snapshot reality checks on computerized state testing in the schools:
"I had to proctor a re-test of students who had to sit silently in a testing room for an hour trying to get everyone's computers to function. These students were shut out of instruction for their entire regular school day. And in the end, they not only missed a school day for nothing, they were told they must come back in January to re-take the test that we were unable to give them." - teacher testimony
"At my high school, the winter testing window opened and immediately ground to a halt due to technical difficulties. The entire school had changed its schedule to accommodate the testing of three hundred of our two thousand students retaking their failed state tests from last year. And then the system broke down and they were not even able to take the test. This wasn't even the big testing, and yet every student in the school lost significant time for a computerized test that the state required to be given to a small group of students for an arbitrary graduation requirement - like many other state mandates, the state diploma testing requirement sounds like reasonable accountability but in practice requires schools to waste inordinate resources for minimal to no benefit and harms the most vulnerable students by taking them out of instruction to take badly-constructed state tests, under ever changing state guidelines where some students are grandfathered into only having to 'sit for' the tests and others have to pass with whatever score the state department of education chooses for that year, but under our 'graduation requirement' system many students just must take the test and fail it enough times to earn the privilege of completing a 'bridge plan' which takes them out of the classroom, ostracizes them from the general population, denies them access to regular classroom instruction, and sits them silently in a room to complete arbitrary work alone on a computer screen. The whole system is deranged and the people who created it and require it obviously have no idea what is going on or don't really care." - teacher testimony
"Many teachers were pulled from their classes to proctor and their students had to be dispersed in small groups to sit at the back of other classrooms with instructions to complete lessons posted for them online. Unfortunately due to the testing or some other problem no one in the building was able to access the network, so instruction was a complete loss." - teacher testimony
"Last year our school had to shut the library for 84 days, as well as displace classes from computer labs and rooms with enough outlets for computers so that these rooms could be transformed into testing centers. Many teachers worked extra hours each testing day before and after school setting up and breaking down the room since computers couldn't stay where they were overnight. If the fire marshal had walked in and seen the spiderweb tangle of power strips and extension cords we would have been in trouble. For schools that don't have one-to-one computers the testing is onerously burdensome. For schools with one-to-one computers, student computers still need to be converted to testing computers by pulling students out of class to meet to install software. For students with limited computer skills - and smart phone use does not always correspond to computer skills - just navigating and using the mouse or touch pad to answer questions puts them at a disadvantage. Computers in school are great; I'm not a Luddite. Computers for state testing are cruel and unusual torture." - teacher testimony
"Our Administrators often work past midnight during most of the testing season trying their best to keep the testing disruption to a minimum. Still our teachers are spending hours and hours training to administer the tests, and we lose countless hours, days, weeks and months to testing that disrupts our instruction."- teacher testimony
"Ideally, schools have enough computers or tablets to deliver exams to all students within a short period of time, while those who aren't testing still have access to technology for typical classroom use. But the ideal scenario is rare. 'Particularly classrooms in under-resourced school districts are still scrambling to play catch up,' said Bob Schaeffer, public education director with the National Center for Fair and Open Testing, which opposes high-stakes standardized testing." Paper Trail, Computer testing compounds challenges for poor and rural districts
"In addition to such staggering loss of instruction, students also confronted persistent technological problems affecting the validity of the test. In many cases students had to wait in silence for up to an hour for testing programs to be ready. Among a host of other issues, students in one fourth- and fifth- grade class were forced to deal with difficulties selecting or "dragging and dropping"answers 50 times. They had some or all of their typed responses moved or deleted 53 times. This same group also endured unwanted scrolling or highlighting of text 34 times. These problems will not be fixed by a limited reduction in testing." Robert Dietzen, Educators Call for an End to PARCC Testing
The Occam's Razor solution?
Simply give a paper and pencil test.
Computerized testing has an inherent risk of malfunction that is simply not present in paper and pencil testing.
Any test that can't be given statewide on a single day cannot be secure, as students have readily available means of sharing test questions and content, regardless of the "test disclosure security forms" they must sign. Students sign these forms for the SAT and ACT, yet by the evening of the test the internet is filled with memes about that day's test questions.
The fact that State Departments of Education have given, and plan to continue giving computerized state tests that cannot be administered statewide on a single day shows that they care neither for the competent administration nor for the security of their system of "accountability".
Computerized testing in a public school poses serious inherent implementation and security problems.
Any competent data analyst knows that changing a major variable essentially means you have started the experiment over. Computerized tests, experiments with "innovative questions" and the new grading and reporting technology sets all of our historical testing data back to zero as well as inviting "glitches" that would be intolerable in any competitive business.
Any expert who does not disclose these "buyer beware caveats" is just trying to make the sale rather than facilitate an informed decision.
"Arthur VanderVeen, the chief executive of New Meridian and the leader of the company that manages the PARCC consortium said he is 'committed to fairness and ensuring no student is disadvantaged in how they take the test" and that his company' recently studied the two modes of testing and found that paper test questions and computer test questions yield comparable results."
"He said (in the spring, 2015) the data from those studies likely won't be made public until this summer."
There is many reasons not to trust Arthur VanderVeen, chief executive of New Meridian and leader of the company that manages the PARCC consortium, when he tells us to move along because there is nothing to see here and insists that computerized testing is fair and accurate.
Ironically, when the results were released in the summer of 2015 even Arthur VanderVeen's own studies concluded that paper test questions and computer test questions did not, in fact, yield comparable results. The abstract of New Meridian's "Mode Comparability Study Based on Spring 2015 Operational Test Data" ended by reporting "there were substantial differences in scores across modes."
Even their own studies show that students don't test well on computers yet they are selling computerized testing to our State Departments of Education.
Can you say, "lucrative contracts?"
What about, an ever-increasing pot of public money that the politicians insist we must raise "for the children?" Why, for the love of all things good and holy, would ANYONE force computerized state testing on our schools?
Could the real reason behind the push for computerized testing be.....money?
You certainly won't hear any mention of that rationale from the bureaucracy, corporations and contractors who profit from computerized tests, but the evidence is pretty overwhelming.
Consider the many statements made behind closed doors to stockholders and boards of directors, and the hundreds of millions of tax-payer dollars earmarked for schools but funneled instead into technology contracts through hidden and discrete sole-source, non-competitive line items on state and local budgets. (see"Money, lobbying, bad tests")
The facts, rather than the talking points, suggest that lots and lots of money motivates the move to computerized testing.
If Texas parents, teachers and taxpayers were the ones who got to choose how to invest $388 million in their public schools, do you think they would have used it all to buy online "Assessments of Academic Readiness?" That is how the Texas Education Agency choose to spend the $388 million. Apparently the Texas House and Senate Legislators and Governor were pleased about spending the money that way; the certainly did not prevent it.
Would real stakeholders have spent $10 million on Seattle's computer-adaptive MAP testing program? That's $2.8 million more than the manipulative Gates Foundation's $7.2 million grant that prompted the purchase.
Until Seattle finally jettisoned the expensive program, MAP stole valuable time away from actual learning, forced libraries and cafeterias to close to administer the tests, produced unusable results, and was selected and purchased in a highly questionable manner which resulted in the resignation of Superintendent Goodlow-Johnson from the NWEA board of directors.
Because of MAP, "a kindergartener's first library experience consisted of a computerized test instead of the opportunity to check out a book."
"My personal take: UNESCO and the Bush Administration had a 'meeting of the minds' in the 1990's when neoliberal global market forces were more in line with an agenda and UNESCO leadership. From that point forward, the UNESCO plans as originally stated in 1946 toward greater 'mass communications' and 'education initiatives' was able to serve the free market 'messaging' and policy reforms stemming from the U.S. and U.K. driven corporate interests. For a comprehensive list of technology based education corporations cashing in on the flow of local, national and global funds see The Economic Impact of Ed Tech: Glimpses of a New World (2013) published by ASTRA."
When elite decision-makers are spending other people's money on other people, and are also given the opportunity to benefit personally if particular purchases are made, the real stakeholders are at risk and children suffer.
Free trips for Education Officials???????
"Since 2008, the Pearson Foundation, the nonprofit arm of one of the nation's largest educational publishers, has financed free international trips - some have called them junkets - for education commissioners whose states do business with the company. When the state commissioners are asked about these trips - to Rio de Janeiro; London; Singapore; and Helsinki, Finland - they emphasize the time they spend with educators from around the world to get ideas for improving American public schools."
"Rarely do they mention that they also meet with top executives of the Pearson company."
"'The Pearson conferences fit the same fact pattern as the influence-buying junkets that convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff arranged for members of Congress,' said Marcus S. Owens, a lawyer who was director of the Exempt Organizations Division of the Internal Revenue Service for 10 years and is a former board member of the Better Business Bureau's Wise Giving Alliance. 'Those junkets were paid for by private charities.'"
"In April, CTB/McGraw Hill submitted the lowest bid to run Kentucky's testing program, but Pearson, whose bid was $2 million higher, was selected. In May, the state's commissioner, Terry Holliday, wrote on his blog that he recently 'had the honor' of taking a trip to China sponsored by the council, the Asia Society and the Pearson Foundation, and in September he went to Brazil, too."
Milton Friedman famously divided spending into four categories:
"There are four ways in which you can spend money. You can spend your own money on yourself. When you do that, why then you really watch out what you’re doing, and you try to get the most for your money. Then you can spend your own money on somebody else. For example, I buy a birthday present for someone. Well, then I’m not so careful about the content of the present, but I’m very careful about the cost. Then, I can spend somebody else’s money on myself. And if I spend somebody else’s money on myself, then I’m sure going to have a good lunch! Finally, I can spend somebody else’s money on somebody else. And if I spend somebody else’s money on somebody else, I’m not concerned about how much it is, and I’m not concerned about what I get. And that’s government. And that’s close to 40% of our national income."
The humorist P.J. O’Rourke summarized Friedman's economic logic as follows:
"1. You spend your money on yourself. You’re motivated to get the thing you want most at the best price. This is the way middle-aged men haggle with Porsche dealers.
2. You spend your money on other people. You still want a bargain, but you’re less interested in pleasing the recipient of your largesse. This is why children get underwear at Christmas.
3. You spend other people’s money on yourself. You get what you want but price no longer matters. The second wives who ride around with the middle-aged men in the Porsches do this kind of spending at Neiman Marcus.
4. You spend other people’s money on other people. And in this case, who gives a [damn]?"