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The benefits of online standardized testing
FRIDAY, DECEMBER 30, 2011 17:26 PM

Anybody who has ever taken a standardized assessment is familiar with the testing process, which typically includes a No. 2 pencil and a sheet filled with bubbles. However, in an age where iPads are replacing textbooks and students can take courses in front of their computers, some are wondering if standardized tests should go online.

One assessment that has already gone online is the Stanford Achievement Test, or SAT-10. The web-based version of the examination, which helps teachers get a sense of students’ knowledge in such areas as language, mathematics and science, is designed for grades three through twelve, according to Pearson Education’s website.

For schools, the SAT-10 Online eases the burden that comes with having to store, distribute, organize and ship test materials, states the website. Instead, the web-based assessment’s format allows for real-time reporting and scoring.

"Everything is stored on secure Pearson servers, easily accessible to authorized district users anytime, thereby saving school districts significant overhead costs as well as time in test administration," said Deloris Flint, Pearson’s director of products, in a statement.

For students, taking the test at a computer provides them with an opportunity to develop their technical skills, which is also a focus of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS).

The Iowa Assessments, which recently replaced the Iowa Tests of Basic Skills and Iowa Tests of Educational Development, is expected to go online as early as the fall of 2013, The Gazette reported. Catherine Welch of the Iowa Testing Programs told the news source that while web-based tests have been piloted for end-of-course exams, further research is required before the Assessments go fully online.

While some teachers may feel uneasy with the transition to online education, administrators from Ohio’s Dublin City Schools say they look forward to the online state assessments that accompany the implementation of the CCSS, ThisWeek Community Newspapers reported.

In addition to reducing the costs that come with physical tests, David Axner, the district’s superintendent, spoke to the news source about the educational benefits of online testing.

"The plan is instead of the district waiting 60 days for the results, you’ll have the student results within 60 seconds," Axner said. "That will improve the ability to provide intervention and remediation."

Another possible benefit of moving standardized testing online is the ability to eliminate cheating. This past summer, news broke of a major cheating scandal involving teachers at the Atlanta Public Schools who were changing students’ answers. As the answers on many assessments are merely penciled in bubbles, they are easily erasable. This only lends weight to the argument that standardized tests that do not rely on paper and pencil are better in the long run.

The Hawaii State Assessment is one test that is administered to students online, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported. Jon Cohen, executive vice president of American Institutes for Research, the company that administers the Assessment, told the news source that it would be hard for people to tamper with answers on this examination.

"It's a lot more difficult to cheat on an online test, especially an adaptive online test in which all the kids are looking at different items," Cohen said. "This test is set up so that if a kid is away from a test for 20 minutes, nobody can go back and change their answers."

While there are several benefits to web-based assessments, schools certainly need to have the proper technological infrastructure in place before they can make the transition from paper and pencil to the computer.