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Online Testing Coming to NJ Schools

Some administrators uneasy about 2014-15 deadline

Nearly 1 million New Jersey students will take their annual state math and language exams online by the spring of 2015, NJ Spotlight reports.

The testing — which is being developed by the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) — is about to go through its first pilot evaluations in about a dozen districts. 

The state Department of Education has started to collect information from districts as to what they need in terms of technology, from software and high-speed connections to the number of available workstations or tablets.

State officials say it shouldn’t be too big a lift, with many schools already far along in their technology plan and expected to easily meet the requirements. But not all teachers and administrators share that optimistic opinion.

“The specifications [for the new testing] seem pretty low compared to what districts are doing anyway,” said Bari Erlichson, the state’s assistant commissioner, who is overseeing the effort and has been traveling the state to pitch its merits.

“These kind of devices should already be part of their instructional technology,” she said in an interview. “They should be using these devices in the daily learning.”

Still, at least anecdotally, several district leaders say this is likely to be a steep transition.

More than 500 school administrators took part in one of the first presentations of the plans in a department webinar last week, and several said the reality of the requirements is started to hit, with plenty of questions still to answer.

“We are certainly not up to the technology needed right now, and we have only two years before we need to be,” said Teresa Rafferty, interim superintendent in Piscataway, who said the requirements in her district alone will take $1.6 million investment up front.

She and others also talked about the larger cultural change in testing that’s coming at the same time as other shifts in school funding and accountability, including a new high-stakes teacher evaluation system that will be in place next year.

“The overall cost is significant, and I wonder if our technology dollars would be put to better use for student learning, rather than ensuring we have enough workstations and space to add additional assessments to a system already overburdened with testing,” said Charles Sampson, superintendent of Freehold Regional High School Districts.

Read more at NJSpotlight.com.

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