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Karen Heath has been working with Vermont K-12 students teaching (and coaching) English Language Arts for nearly three decades. Karen is the 2005 Vermont Teacher of the Year and is currently the Grade 3-8 Literacy Coordinator for the Barre Schools.

Well, here we are at week eight of SBAC in Barre, and it has taken us this long to test all grade 3-8 students. Here are my reflections on how this went in middle school. 1) Navigating the test on the computer was not really an issue for most students. The first day was a little tricky for some--just in terms of logging in, signing on, and learning what to do, but after that just about every student was very independent in terms of knowing what was expected technologically. 2) Stamina was an issue. Students are just not used to doing math on the computer or reading a lot of text on the computer, and writing using evidence --all on the computer. Seven hours of testing is a lot. 3) Text to speech accommodation was very robotic, and did not always work. This caused difficulty for our struggling readers. 4) Though it looked like kids were more engaged overall than with the paper and pencil tests, most students said they preferred the NECAPs to the computer-based test.

Why do we need a new test? Well, we have new standards and it is the 21st century, and kids are used to doing a whole lot of their communication on-line, so an on-line test is simply the right way to go, even if kids feel nostalgic for pencil and paper. Plus, the expedience of scoring an on-line test is great--we will have results a whole lot more quickly than we did with NECAP.

What did we learn? 1) Kids are resilient and adaptable. 2) We need to provide more ongoing curricular opportunities for writing on the computer, reading on the computer, and doing math on the computer. It cannot just be a testing situation that provides these opportunities. 3) Scheduling and access to computers need to be worked out well ahead, and even when they are, glitches will arise.  It just goes with the territory.

Page Last Updated on December 4, 2014