Education Department wants to require that statewide student tests be given online

From TheRepublic.com

LINCOLN, Neb. Cost concerns have been raised about a proposal that all Nebraska schools give students statewide tests online beginning next year.

State school board member John Sieler, of Omaha, said the requirement proposed by the Nebraska Education Department could be a burden for some districts.

Online testing has been growing in many districts. In Lincoln, for example, the public school district spent $1 million on carts and laptops so the computers can be rolled from room to room. That allows students to take reading tests online.

Pat Roschewski, the Education Department assessment director, told the Lincoln Journal Star ((http://bit.ly/uAZ3W8) that several districts began buying additional computers before the statewide reading tests started.

"We've been very direct about this since the beginning," she said. "This is the way we're going."

Statewide reading tests began two years ago. A statewide math test was added last year. A statewide writing test has been given for several years, and a statewide science test will be started this school year.

State school board member John Sieler, of Omaha, says the requirement proposed by the Nebraska Education Department could be a burden for some districts.

Schools have been able to choose whether to administer the tests online or the old-fashioned way: pen or pencil applied to paper.

But the Education Department has proposed requiring that all statewide tests be conducted online.

Roschewski said about 80 percent of the state's students took the reading test online last year, but less than 60 percent went online for the math test.

That cost the state $56,000 to buy more math test booklets, she said.

Lincoln schools used paper and pencil tests for math, said Marilyn Moore, associate superintendent of instruction. Administrators thought students would score higher because they were accustomed to working problems longhand.

The state compared student performance on paper-and-pencil versus online tests taken last year, Roschewski said. In all but fourth grade, students who tested online did better than those who used pencil and paper, she said.