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Computer-based Testing is a State Priority

Students use their laptops.WNYRIC offers support for schools

For years, the flow of paper test booklets and scannable answer sheets to and from school buildings has been honed to a science, but it is also a labor-intensive effort. The New York State Education Department (NYSED) remains steadfast in its commitment to shift assessments to computers.

At the Western New York Regional Information Center (WNYRIC) around 500,000 answer sheets are printed for state assessments and Regents exams in the course of a year. The WNYRIC prints the answer sheets and ships them out; they are then filled out by students, shipped by districts to a scoring site, graded by teachers and shipped again. The New York State Education Department (NYSED) has its sights on reducing that flow of paper in the near future.

According to its website, NYSED began administering Grade 3-8 English language arts and math assessments by computer in 2016 “as part of its commitment to both meeting the needs of 21st century learners and improving test delivery, test integrity, scoring validity, and turn-around time on testing results.”

“We began supporting NYSED’s computer-based testing (CBT) initiative three years ago. The number of districts opting for computer-based testing in Western New York increases every year, but the percentage is still small compared to traditional paper testing,” Dennis Atkinson, Test Scoring, Data Warehouse, & Data Reporting Manager, explained.

Atkinson leads a team of five who provide test scoring services for 100 districts in Western New York. In 2017-18, there were 85 individual schools using CBT in those districts.

“We are not all about paper, we also help districts with computer-based testing. We assist with data file processes, procedures and troubleshooting errors,” Atkinson said.

This is the third year that districts and schools have been able to administer CBT for the Grades 3-8 English language arts and math tests.

“One of the assumed advantages is a reduction in paper handling, but this has been something schools have become efficient at managing. The real advantage we almost always hear from the districts that have gone to CBT is the ease of scoring for teachers. These tests are not all bubbles to be filled in, so teachers still need to read those short answers and essays, but the less time teachers spend scoring, the more time they spend teaching,” Atkinson added.

NYSED is offering 12, two-hour, Fall CBT Information Sessions across the state, one of which was held for WNYRIC at Erie 1 BOCES on Oct. 4. The session focused on lessons learned from technical issues with the spring CBT assessments and how to prepare for the upcoming assessments with CBT, including technology readiness, best practices and tech tips.

NYSED will provide the same information in a webinar of the session on Oct. 22 through CBT Support

“Our mission is to provide district- and school-level administrators with information on how they can continue or start to transition from paper to computer-based testing in this next school year,” Atkinson said.

Questions on CBT can be emailed to cbt@e1b.org.

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