Monday, September 12, 2005

In The News: Electronic Testing

I read with interest the claims made in Oregon recently that online testing actually caused a raise in student test scores: Online Testing Helped Raise Scores. “Oregon students of all ages showed across-the-board improvements on state tests in core subjects....” Good for Oregon and good for electronic testing! I am a big believer in online assessment. Further reading, however, caused me to pause. I began wondering about the security of the online assessments in Oregon. An Oregon official is quoted as claiming, “Web-based testing is more secure…” and “…students and teachers get immediate results…delivered automatically....” All of this raised concerns about security. Surely, someone was looking at the results before they were returned? What evidence does Oregon offer to support their claims of security? Apparently, teachers had multiple opportunities to test their students “throughout the school year!” “Often, teachers will space out the testing periods over a school year and use early test results to evaluate which material a student needs to focus on in order to reach grade-level proficiency.” Does this mean the forms are exposed the entire school year?

Being a skeptical reader, as you should be, and looking for evidence to support their claims, I went to the Oregon Department of Education website for information regarding the security of the system and perhaps some technical information. After nearly 30 minutes I gave up. It is not that I don’t believe press releases, newspapers, or other non-peer reviewed information—well, I guess it is because I don’t—but it is not that I don’t believe Oregon educators. I just wish we could have some factual evidence associated with such claims. Only this way will we truly be able to judge for ourselves what works and what does not.

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