Survey: schools aren’t ready for online testing

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(Baton Rouge – June 12, 2014) A large majority of teachers responding to a statewide survey say their schools don’t have the technology required for the online tests that are coming with the Common Core State Standards. They also say their students lack the computer skills necessary to succeed on the tests.

“The Department of Education told us that schools are ready to implement the computerized versions of Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers,” said Louisiana Federation of Teachers President Steve Monaghan. “Teachers are telling us a very different story.”

A Federation survey of 1,011 teachers revealed that 87 percent of them said their schools do not have “the technological capacity for all students to take the high-stakes PARCC exams online.” When asked if “students have the computer skills necessary” to take the tests, 75 percent said no.

“The questions surrounding school and student readiness are not going away,” Monaghan said. “Instead of putting out PR statements that everything is rosy, we’re hoping that the Department of Education addresses these problems before launching a statewide testing program that could be a disaster.

“It’s an old story in Louisiana,” Monaghan said. “Officials ought to – but seldom do – listen to the experts in the classroom before they embark on ambitious new programs.”

Monaghan said the Federation had adopted a resolution at its most recent convention asking for lawmakers to demand that schools have appropriate technology or alternative means of assessment to administer the PARCC test.

With Governor Bobby Jindal now wavering about whether or not to even use PARCC as the state test, Monaghan said, the time is right to question honestly the way any instrument will be administered.

“The PARCC tests can and will be taken with paper and pencil and in some schools, just like our LEAP and iLEAP tests,” Monaghan said. “However, as we move ahead, we need to be sure that scores assigned to children truly reflect what children know and are not a reflection of testing conditions, the matter in which the tests were taken, or students’ technical skills.”

It’s not enough to just have a computer for every seven students at a school, which is the current standard for readiness, Monaghan said. They must have the correct hardware and operating system, and the school must have adequate Internet access.

“There has been little or no conversation concerning the effect that disparate test conditions may have on these test results. Does a tech-savvy child in a school where there is a computer for every child have an advantage over the child with minimal tech skills in a school where one computer must be shared among numbers of children?” asked Monaghan.

The survey, taken in April and May, included teachers from every part of the state. Teachers were not required to name their districts or to add specific comments, but those who did revealed that few if any school systems are really prepared for computerized testing.

Here’s what one Jefferson Parish teacher had to say about the school computers: “My class was selected to take part in the PARCC field test. Students could not log into the system, and once they did get logged in (after 45 minutes of alternate instructions from technical support), many of the computers began to shut down. Many of the videos would not load, and when the students attempted to switch back and forth between pages, many of the computers froze or locked up.”

Another Jefferson teacher said, “Many children have never received keyboarding classes and can only type with a few fingers, therefore testing would take even longer than it already does.”

In Caddo Parish, a teacher said, “My school has had significant problems with the internet. Students lose their connection to the internet and have to wait while the teacher or administrator corrects the problem. Students find the process frustrating and distracting.”

The survey revealed some specific questions that need to be answered before attempting to test large numbers of students online:

  • Do students have the keyboarding skills required for the tests?
  • Does the school have enough computers to administer the tests?
  • What test security measures are in place if multiple students must use the same computer over an extended period?
  • Are the computers new and fast enough?
  • Do the computers have the right operating system to the tests?
  • Does the school have adequate Internet access to administer the tests without crashing?
  • Does the school have enough electrical outlets for all computers?
  • If the school is using laptops or tablets, do they have enough battery power to complete the test?

At last November’s LFT convention, delegates adopted a resolution dealing with several aspects of the controversial Common Core State Standards and testing. The resolution asked for legislation that would:

  • Adopt a three-year hold-harmless transitional period for the implementation of Common Core (On June 10, 2014, the Gates Foundation called for a two year moratorium on linking new tests to high stakes decisions).
  • Guarantee appropriate curriculum framework for the implementation of Common Core and its tests.
  • Repeal the letter grading system of schools prior to establishing consequences of Common Core implementation.
  • Ensure the provision of appropriate technology to administer PARCC, or to provide for alternate means of assessment.

The survey results were released at the LFT’s annual Union Leadership Institute in Baton Rouge. Local union presidents and other leaders from around the state gathered in Baton Rouge to learn about the recently concluded legislative session and plan for back-to-school activities.


Samples of voluntary comments

Technological Capacity

At my current school, teachers’ computers had to be taken from them just to accommodate current EOC testing. (St. Tammany)

We have a decent number of computers for PARCC testing, but I don't think the wireless servers have the capacity to have that many students online testing at one time. (East Baton Rouge)

We have computers that are as old as some of my students! Now that Windows XP is no longer supported by Microsoft, we are even leery about letting our students go on the internet. With no virus protection we cannot corrupt what little bit of system usage we have. (No district given)

Laptops available for testing are so old, they are almost unusable. They do not hold a battery charge for longer than about an hour and there are not enough for all students to test. (No district given)

The computers that we have in our classrooms use Windows 90's version.  Not all classrooms have computers.  Sometimes we are able to access the internet & sometimes we are not. (No district given)

There are a total of 1,000 students in our school. There are a total of about 40 computers in our two labs that work. How long will it take for every student to take this test? (Calcasieu)

Although the district may be able to claim that they possess the technology, in reality, the equipment they have is old and the internet connections are always inconsistent and unreliable. (No district given)

Not all of the computers in our labs work every day so it is sometimes difficult to shuffle the schedule for taking the online tests. The students are doing much better with the online testing vs. the paper and pencil version. (Jefferson)

Our school and district are working to meet the requirements, but we do not have the bandwidth to accommodate all students testing at the same time. Our district has opted for laptops in carts for testing, and that will only present an additional set of problems, not allow for all students to test. Laptop screens are too small, the touch pad gets in the way, trying to use the number pad on the alpha keyboard is not a working solution for a calculator, and using laptops will rely on wireless connectivity. (Ouachita)

I only have access to four computers that are reliable online for my 20 students to share and no computer lab at our school. (St. Tammany)

At school, we have one working computer lab where most of the time, students have to double up working with another student due to technology issues. (Jefferson)

We can barely keep the one computer in each classroom functional.  There is no way we can afford to keep the computers at a level commensurate with the demands of yearly PARCC exams. (No district given)

As soon as we have enough computers that actually work and the students have used them on a daily/weekly basis for practice AND they use them for their regular tests, I'd be more than happy to use technology for our standardized testing. (West Carroll)

The main issue is that 85-90% of the computers in our school are Windows XP - don't know how we can administer these assessments on old computers, especially when not supported any longer by Microsoft.  Not certain that our network can handle such capacity either. (Lafayette)

PARCC is stealing so much of our educational funding already. Now, with the loss of all of our XP computers, we are in trouble. Teachers do not even have ONE working computer in their rooms. (No district given)

Our school does not have enough computers to accommodate our students. (Tangipahoa)

We have one computer lab that houses about 30 computers. Individual classrooms have 3-4 computers each that are roughly 7+ years old and run extremely slow. Our students are given 30 minutes a week to practice using a computer (IF their teacher has time to bring them to the lab). Our school population is 90% free lunch. They do not have access to technology in their homes. Students from more affluent communities with greater access will have a major advantage over those who don't.  This is not fair to our children. (St. Tammany)

Let me begin by saying that I think the move to on-line testing is the right way to go.  Unfortunately, for many reasons primarily in regards to funding, Union Parish Public Schools are in my opinion, not technologically ready to administer PARCC. (Union)

If all students do not have access to a computer at the same time, how can the test be valid?  A lot of sharing will go on because of this! (Livingston)

There are not enough computers to implement school wide PARC testing.  The computers we do have are running on battery (so they shut down on students during testing) and are in poor shape after 1 year of using them for framework testing. (No district given)

Student Skills

Many of our students cannot keyboard and do not have other important basic technology skills to take a test online without being able to ask questions about how to operate the computer. (No district given)

Acadia Parish has worked very hard and spent a great deal of money to insure tech readiness for PARCC. I feel that we are tech ready but I think students' computer skills need to be enhanced in order to be able to effectively participate in online testing. (Acadia)

Our students do not have the required skills needed to complete the tests. They have not been taught basic keyboarding skills so they get frustrated trying to get their answers down. (No district given)

We do not have near enough computers to accommodate PARCC!! Also, if students are expected to take a test on the computer then they need to learn keyboarding starting in kindergarten! (Ouachita Parish)

Even students who are somewhat computer literate do not have the specific skills required by the test questions. (No district given)

I teach in a very LOW poverty school. I have surveyed the 72 fourth grade students that I teach. Out of 72 students, only 37 have computers at home & of those 37, only 22 have constant (month to month) working Internet at home. (Jefferson)

Our students have very few of the basic computer skills needed to take online testing.  Computer classes should be required and taught using a very strict curriculum. (No district given)

Our school was a pilot school for the ELA PARCC assessment. Students were struggling with highlighting, clicking on videos, typing in a timely fashion when responding to extended response questions, etc. Most students do not have the computer skills required to be successful on taking this test. (No district given)

The younger students do not have the keyboarding skill to type in answers on the computer.  Participating in the field test was a nightmare. (Ascension)

Students don't have the typing skills. (Allen)

Our students do not have any background in keyboarding. How are they going to do on the writing portion of the tests when they can't type? (No district given)

The majority of students do not have computers at home. Students usually go to the computer lab once a week for 30 minutes at school. A computer class should be taught to students first before giving them the high-stakes PARCC exams on line. (St. Martin)