The digital transition by the two college testing companies is taking a few more cautious steps forward this year. It was announced few years ago and said to be implemented gradually, beginning with the international testing. But with 29 states, the District of Columbia and many of the largest cities giving the standardized exams to all juniors, the complexity of the task has never been greater.
Out in front is ACT Inc., which began digital testing in 2015 and will move all its international testing online this fall — a year later than planned. ACT offers the digital option to all 16 states and 1,100 districts that contract with it. However just 8 percent of roughly one million school-day tests given last year were digital.
The major challenges relate less to the network or the status of the servers. The lack of laptops/computers available at the same time for all the juniors and seniors represents the main problem currently.
The College Board, have offered digital versions of the school-day SAT in Oklahoma and Ohio last April. Altogether, about 100 schools took either the SAT or Preliminary SAT exams online.
Digital testing offers the potential for lower cost, instant results and more accurate scoring. Eliminating test booklets and answer sheets provides greater security from test theft, a serious concern after major cheating scandals in the United States and abroad. An increasing share of professional, licensing and postgraduate exams are digital-only, including the GRE, MCAT and GMAT.
Digital literacy in schools was a core goal of the federal No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, which mandated annual testing of schoolchildren grades three through eight and in high school to hold schools accountable. The Common Core academic standards, released in 2010 and accepted by most states, called for state accountability tests to be administered online.
But developing an online version of a high-stakes standardized test requires exhaustive studies of such factors as laptop scrolling speeds, screen loading of various equipment and fine-grained statistical comparisons of scores, Ms. McAllister said.
Test administration poses its own challenges. In South Carolina last year, the first statewide mandatory online ACT exam was marred by technical difficulties, forcing some schools to administer makeup tests and delaying some score reports. The state encouraged districts to seek waivers for paper tests this year, and many did.
ACT adapted by requiring a new test setup this year. The approach, known as proctor caching, is in place in several places in Okla. Each school has a dedicated server that downloads and administers the test to individual students’ work stations, thus avoiding web-related problems.
But Oklahoma City opted for the paper SAT this year, because the city does not yet have enough equipment and its older buildings are prone to power and network failures.
The transition from pencils to online will no doubt generate at first a drop in scores. The students used with computers on a daily basis will rebound faster. Nobody wants to bit the bullet though. We at Damian SAT ACT Prep in North Palm Beach we encourage students to use the computer in school as much as they can in order to be familiar with the keyboard usage.
The College Board and ACT emphasize the practice value of their online exams in earlier grades, as well as their free online test prep: The College Board for instance promotes the score-boosting power of its partner Khan Academy, commonly used in school and after-school curriculums, while ACT this spring began its own ACT Academy online test prep.
Nevertheless, many students still feel more confident with pencil and paper.
Several educational outfits are recommending students to take the pencil test if they can. The fear of unknown is generally the reason of this call. We at Damian SAT ACT Prep in North Palm Beach, we strongly recommend students to try at least one test online and see for themselves the score comparison. Our expert tutors in math and science work currently with our students for the SAT or ACT training on computers also using pencils and scratch paper.