Practice Areas

Focus on new tech tools used in testing: much improvement needed

"The majority of my students weren't able to process any of the tests."

That above comment frames a sharp -- and unquestionably sad -- indictment by a teacher of a number of new tech-assist tools incorporated into exams administered to special education students across California.

Those tools, which are new innovations incorporated into standardized tests given to students across the country under the auspices of the Common Core program, are in fact being questioned by special-ed teachers across the state. They complain that, for a number of reasons, the developed tools are impeding rather than promoting the ability of their students to effectively take the exams.

A recent article in the Los Angeles Times states bluntly that the designed features focused upon enhancing the test-taking experience "need a lot of improvement."

That is the certainly true when, as is reportedly the case, some children have cried and flatly given up while trying to work with the new features.

"We've had kids turn off that didn't want to do it anymore," says one technology specialist at the California School for the Blind.

To say that there are glitches to be ironed out would be an unequivocal understatement. There have been reports of much-hyped visual-enhancement features that actually make it more difficult for students trying to see material on computer screens. So-called "text-to-speech" technology has been roundly excoriated by many students and teachers alike for its robot-sounding qualities. Some teachers have complained that they must intervene to read passages aloud, which is distracting to all students who are testing.

One principal commentator on the recently administered tests states that score accuracy must be questioned, given the tech glitches. She called the rollout of the new features "a test of the test."

Clearly, things must get better.

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