The Problem With Testing Via Tech
It’s no secret that today’s kids are more tech-savvy than ever. Like many kids, my nephew knew how to use an iPhone before he could even walk. Now, at just four years old, he’s handier with an iPad than many adults. However, despite the fact that our society revolves around technology, parents and teachers are worried that their students lack the computer skills necessary to take the new Common Core assessments.
As states begin implementing the Common Core State Standards, students around the nation will be required to complete the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Career (PARCC) standardized test. But the transition is not going smoothly. Many people are taking issue with the PARCC assessment – including Florida Governor Rick Scott, who recently withdrew the state from PARCC participation. A document from his office argued, “Currently, the PARCC assessment will require an excessive amount of testing time, will be too expensive, and has been marked by overreaches from the federal government into education policy.”
And now that PARCC’s testing practices have come to light, people have even more reason to question the assessment. From a young age, students will be required to complete the exam online. That may not seem like such a big deal, but a recent study by Pew Research Center’s Internet and American Life Project found that 15% of Americans 18 and older don’t use the internet at all. 19% stated that they didn’t own a computer or that internet service was too expensive, while 7% claimed that there’s a lack of availability or access to the internet. That means that students from low-income families could suffer disproportionately. Consider Louisiana: 42% of students in New Orleans live below the poverty line. That’s nearly double the national average.
Additionally, students in fourth grade – some as young as nine – will be required to type a full page on the writing section of the test, and students in fifth grade will have to type two full pages. Considering that these students are just learning to form paragraphs and write short essays, it seems unreasonable to add typing and formatting to the equation.
It’s likely that changing traditional test practices to an online format will skew test scores, reflecting students’ ability, or inability, to use a computer rather than their academic ability. Joy Pullmann, of The Heartland Institute, wrote, “Eight-year-olds are not typically good typists, or able to be good typists, and this may make their test score a referendum on their computer skills rather than their academic knowledge. It seems Common Core has combined its developmentally inappropriate standards for small children with developmentally inappropriate tests.”
I’m sure that most kids can turn on a computer without any instruction even if they’ve never done it before; however, asking students to click and drag objects on the screen and type for long periods of time, all while putting their academics to the test, is another story.
Sure, schools could introduce more extensive computer and keyboarding classes at younger ages, but what class does it replace? Teachers are required to fill 85% of the school day with Common Core State standards, and that’s already causing schools to cut enrichment classes such as art and music. So what goes next? Science or history?
Even if the material can’t be added during the day, you can be sure the government will tack it on to homework. Just this week, I picked up a friend’s daughter from school, and part of her homework was to play a certain online game for 15 minutes each night. And she’s only in kindergarten.
Finally, have the Common Core initiators forgotten about special needs students? According to Pullman, “Delayed and special needs children particularly benefit from learning handwriting.” Many teachers will tell you that students’ ability to focus on handwriting helps calm their nerves and allows them to focus on the task at hand. By taking that focal point away during a major test, it’s likely that students with learning disabilities or special needs will struggle to complete their exams proficiently.
Look, I’ve made it no secret that I think the Common Core State Standards are bad education policy. Now, bad policy is being coupled with unsuitable testing practices, and it’s making matters far worse. With Common Core in place, quality education and sound educational practices are becoming endangered. It’s only a matter of time before they go extinct.
In pursuit of the truth,