Thursday, June 02, 2005

Testing by Computer

For the K-12 arena, testing by computer is the future and the future is now. Many schools are ready for and welcome this use of technology. Most kids consider taking a test by computer to be much less involved than downloading the latest iPods tune. But some schools aren’t ready at all. And some kids haven’t used the computer much at all. So traditional testing isn’t going away quite yet. True multiple choice testing.

Not that some sticky issues aren’t raised when high stakes testing programs are offered online. Professional testing standards are pretty clear that computer tests and paper tests must be shown to be comparable if they are to be given together. But how do you show this? Does every test administration become an experiment? The trick is to remain faithful to the standards without creating barriers to a natural innovation. Training, good customer support, and creative data analysis go a long way. Design a strong experiment if you can, collect the most relevant data possible if you can’t. The current literature on comparability is a little mixed. Some studies show some effects; others not. Most can be criticized for some design flaw or another. Not to worry, though. The schools will soon make clear what the most popular choice is.

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