It's out with the Number two pencils and bubble sheets.
In two years, Missouri students will be required to take their state tests on the computer. That's got some local schools scrambling to come up with the necessary technology to make that possible.
The Missouri Association of School Administrators (MASA) says many of its schools have gone for a decade now without any state funding for technology improvements, something they normally look to taxpayers to take care of.
"With recent cuts to the transportation funding and early childhood education, the elimination of the career ladder program and an underfunded foundation formula, it is difficult for school districts to find resources to make needed technology upgrades," said Roger Kurtz, Executive Director of MASA.
Funding also has been cut in recent years for MOREnet, the primary Internet service provider for Missouri schools.
"It is time for the state of Missouri to put together a sustainable technology investment program for our schools," Kurtz said. "We need to provide technology equity among schools and we need to provide our teachers with quality professional development on how to effectively use new technologies in the classroom."
Palmyra R-1 Superintendent Eric Churchwell says that while Palmyra's equipment does meet requirements, it doesn't have enough computers for every student. What has him concerned?
"Whether or not we have the computer hardware and bandwidth and infrastructure for all of those kids to be able to take that test in the window that we want them to take it," said Churchwell.
Churchwell says there is already stress involved in taking the standardized tests and he says he's worried if they're on a computer in a room they're not used to, that stress will be heightened.
A recent technology survey conducted by MASA indicates most Missouri schools are not ready. A total of 383 of the 520 Missouri school districts participated in the survey. Only 13% of Missouri school districts responding to the survey indicated that they had no obstacles related to computer-based assessments.
"If everybody has to do it and only thirteen percent of them say they can do it, what are the other 87 percent going to do? They're not going to effectively," said Churchwell. "You're not going to get an accurate picture on the assessments."
"One of the biggest concerns expressed by school administrators is the time issue," Kurtz said. "The computer labs in most schools are not designed to accommodate a large number of students for a lengthy period. A secondary concern is that the computer-based testing requirement will have an impact on the overall instructional program when all computers, bandwidth and facilities are no longer available for other classes during the testing window."
Churchwell's biggest concern in all of this for Palmyra students is the affect it could have on their scores. He says he's not sure that a computer lab is the best environment to be testing in, especially younger students - third graders - who may not have the aptitude on a computer to feel comfortable enough to get a good and accurate test score.
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