LA Shelves Plans For Computerized Tests In Spring

BATON ROUGE (AP) — Louisiana's new Common Core-aligned standardized tests won't be given on computers this year as had been planned for thousands of students, but will be given entirely on paper, Education Superintendent John White announced Friday.

         Roughly 300,000 students in third through eighth grades will take the tests in the spring. The tests replace the LEAP and iLEAP exams that had been used before the state shifted to Common Core, benchmarks adopted by more than 40 states outlining what students should learn each year in English and math.

         Some education leaders had said school districts weren't equipped to handle computerized tests and raised concerns that moving away from pens and paper could create chaos.

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         Also, questions about whether the state would even use the tests had been tied up in legal disputes with Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration until recently. The governor opposes Common Core and tried unsuccessfully to jettison use of testing aligned with the multi-state standards.

         White said most schools are prepared for computerized testing. But he said the state education department opted for paper and pencil tests after talking with education officials who had worries about the technology logistics.

         He said teachers want to focus on the shifting content of the more rigorous tests, rather than on the distractions of learning technology to roll out new testing. He described the change as giving "peace of mind to educators."

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         "We're not particularly concerned about the actual infrastructure and hardware within schools. We know, however, that there is concern and the potential for distraction and what we need to do is get kids ready academically," White said.

         Scott Richard, executive director of the Louisiana School Boards Association, welcomed the news.

         "Challenges continue in many districts in regards to electrical capacity, Internet bandwidth and modern device availability, not to mention digital instructional readiness for teachers and students," Richard said in a written statement.

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         He also said changes to technical requirements of the exam, known as the PARCC test, continue to make it difficult to know what computer capability is needed.

         Louisiana's high schools shifted to computerized testing five years ago for end-of-course exams. Elementary and middle schools have yet to do the same, with much of the shift planned during the current school year.

         But that's on hold until the spring 2016 tests, after White's announcement Friday.

         Despite the delay, White said school systems have been getting equipped. He said while only 337 public schools met the minimum technology-readiness standard in 2012, that's up to 984 schools today — about three-fourths of the 1,335 public schools in Louisiana.

         "I have no doubt that when we do go to a technology-based test, which we're projecting for 2016, that they will be ready," White said.

         – by AP Reporter Melinda Deslatte

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