Archive for Thursday, March 11, 2004

Taking assessment tests on computers offers more ‘student friendly’ option

March 11, 2004

For the first time, students in the Basehor-Linwood School District are taking state assessment tests using computers. Early returns from school teachers and administrators indicate the new method is translating into better performance on the all-important assessment tests.

"The feedback has been the kids like the computerized testing mode," said Bill Hatfield, school district assistant superintendent. "Taking tests on computers versus pencil and paper makes it a little more enjoyable and, in my opinion, it's little more student friendly.

"It puts the tests into a format (students) are used to," he added.

From February to April, students in the district and across Kansas will take Kansas assessment tests, the barometers used in determining compliance with the No Child Left Behind Act, a federal law that went into effect in 2002.

Successful test scores are important to school districts, because failure to show adequate yearly progress, as mandated by the No Child Left Behind Act, could jeopardize funding and accreditation.

But, a flaw in the federal education law is that students have no motivation to perform well on the assessment tests. Assessment scores are not used for college entrance as the ACT or SAT scores are, and they do not have any bearing on grade point average.

To bridge the gap, school officials have routinely emphasized that students perform to their abilities on the assessment tests.

"It's been explained what the ramifications are for the school and for middle school and high school students," Hatfield said. "I think really that translates into kids trying harder."

Another step the school district has taken to supply motivation to middle and high school students is the implementation of classes used to develop comprehension in core subjects such as math, reading and science.

A similar class has been developed to enhance test taking skills.

If a middle or high school student fails to reach proficiency levels on the assessment tests, they are automatically placed into the classes, losing out on a chance to take an elective in its place.

"We don't see the classes as a punishment but as helpful to students who need them to gain skills in math, reading and science," Hatfield said.

"Teens like to have as much choice and freedom as they can," he added. "If there is the possibility that they will have one less elective to choose from a big group will try and pass that test."

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