School gears up for computer-based testing

Schools in Florida are making the move to computer-based testing, and West Shore administrators, teachers and students are preparing for the changes.

According to state statutes, students enrolled in grades 3–11 will participate in FSA ELA assessments and students enrolled in grades 4–11 will participate in the FSA ELA text-based writing assessment. Students enrolled in grades 3–8 will participate in FSA mathematics assessments. Both components will be taken on computers at school.

Testing administrator Mike Drake said he doesn’t think the move to computer-based testing is the way to go.

“It causes us to lose instructional time and — like many things that come from the state level — it is an unfunded mandate,” Drake said. “The state has not supported needed improvements in our infrastructure that would allow us to test using computers in a more efficient manner.”

Sophomore Emily Browne said she has concerns about taking the FSA essay on a computer.

“It’s not a good idea because I feel like some people can’t type as fast as they can write,” Browne said. ”It opens it up to a ton of technical difficulties that could possibly happen, where with pencil and paper nothing is ever going to stop it.”

Lisa Kratz, the assistant principal of curriculum, said the school is preparing for any technical difficulties that could arise during the test.

“We are making sure that while we are testing, other classes aren’t utilizing the internet as much,” Kratz said. “We don’t want streaming video to go on while we are trying to test 162 students, but as far as if it occurs, our number one response is to call the district.”

Another concern is that for the first time, student essays will be scored by both a human and a computer. If the human scorer and computer have significantly different scores on the essay, it will be scored by another person. 

“So the goal was to have quicker scores but also better analysis of the scores,” Kratz said. “I don’t think we are there yet technology wise, but if that were to be improved on I do think it would be more beneficial to us.”

By Helen McSorley