Computerized Testing Monopolizes Technology Time, Resources

The promise of technology in education has not been fulfilled — at least not in schools like Seminole Ridge High School, according to The Palm Beach Post. When the district spent millions to equip its schools' labs with 25,000 new computers, little did the administrators or students expect that most of that machine time was going to be taken up by nothing else but testing.

Further complicating the issue is the fact that their current technology stock might not even be enough. A recent delivery of 400 new laptops eased the crunch slightly, but students and teachers who were hoping to put these digital tools to work in innovative ways to improve the educational experienceare left disappointed as all the resources go towards one goal only: computerized standardized testing.

School districts across Florida are scrambling to upgrade and add technology ahead of a big shift in state-required testing in the 2014-2015 school year that will move even more exams online.

In Palm Beach County, that means adding 25,000 computers — a jump of more than 30 percent — and bandwidth and wireless upgrades at its schools to prepare.

Still, "in the schools, instruction is suffering because computers are so tied up with assessments, and we have so many assessments that classroom teachers can't get their kids on the computers for instruction," said Gary Weidenhamer, the district's director of educational technology.

The computer shortage comes from a number of new initiatives introduced by Weidenhamer, among them a complete transition to computerized testing for the new standardized test set to take over as a replacement for the FCAT.

Florida isn't the only state that's having difficulties coping with the new computerized testing requirement without substantial additional investment in computer hardware and software.

A number of states have announced that they will be looking for an alternative to the venerable General Education Diploma high school equivalency exam because they are not able to accommodate or afford its new computerized tests.

They're worried that they don't have the infrastructure to administer the new version that will rely heavily on technology rather than pen and paper. The states have the final say on which tests are used to determine high school equivalency, and most have been relying on the General Education Development Exam since it was first designed right after WWII.

At least two companies specializing in test design have lobbied more than 40 states to encourage them to drop the new GED in favor of an exam that isn't so technology resource intensive.

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