Bay Village and other school districts distribute state tests on paper for final year
Every spring since the early 1990s, when the Ohio Department of Education began mandating statewide proficiency testing, the Bay Village City School District has accepted many dozens of cartons containing printed test booklets and bubble answer sheets. The tests had to be counted out, secured, and delivered to teachers and students exactly when needed.
Once the tests were taken, the process would begin again in reverse. Districts, teachers, parents and students could wait as long as 2-3 months to learn their individual test results. This spring, Bay Village and most other Ohio districts are accepting all those cartons for the final time.
Next school year, students across Ohio will take the new state tests on computers. While much has been written and discussed about the Common Core curriculum and the tests that will measure mastery of mandated knowledge and skills, little mention can be found about the enormous savings in paper, printing and shipping costs, as well as administrative time, with the switch to online tests.
“There are so many benefits with this switch to online testing,” said Char Shryock, Director of Curriculum for the Bay Village Schools. “The very concrete advantages in logistics and all the costs associated with the old paper-and-pencil way of testing have been somewhat overlooked.”
With the paper tests, each booklet had a number, and forms were filled out indicating which tests were shipped in which cartons. Every booklet and answer sheet had to be accounted for with a check mark on a form as they were packed away and shipped, both to the district before tests were taken, and then from each school when tests were completed. During testing week, tests were kept under lock and key each night, then redistributed each morning. With the online tests, students access the tests through a secure browser and submit test answers electronically. No one else handles the tests, and shipping is eliminated both ways.
Shryock agrees that there are also costs associated with offering the tests online. “But the expense of upgrading technology in our schools so that students have access to the tests, both in hardware and bandwidth, gives students greater access to great online learning resources, too. These are investments that schools should be making anyway.”
In addition to more efficient testing, scoring the tests is done efficiently. In fact, students and teachers will receive most test results immediately. This swift access to test results will allow changes in instruction to address learning problems the same year the tests are taken. Since learning under the Common Core and new Ohio learning standards builds on prior skills mastery, faster test results should lead to improved student achievement the following year.
The online tests allow students to arrange information through drag and drop features, use online tools such as calculators when appropriate, highlight information as they read, and use keyboarding for quick and legible written responses. Students with special needs can access accommodations like increased font size for easier reading, text-to-speech for students who must have text read to them, and even speech-to-text when students have disabilities that limit their use of the computer mouse or keyboard.
“This online, interactive approach to testing allows us to see what students really understand,” said Shryock, who has served as one of the educators giving guidance on the tests' development. “Students no longer just guess at multiple-choice responses. They are asked to manipulate maps, fill in formulas on a grid or spreadsheet, compare multiple reading samples and do other tasks that demonstrate their thought processes. The tests will be difficult, but engaging.”
A small number of paper tests will be used this coming fall only for the third-grade reading test, related to the third-grade reading guarantee. But along with those bubble answer sheets, that mountain of cartons containing state paper tests will soon be a distant memory.
Director of Communications for the Bay Village City School District