Students in California log on in record numbers to take online state tests
JUNE 6, 2019
CREDIT: ALISON YIN FOR EDSOURCE
Despite a new science test that has increased demand on the internet capacity of schools, this spring hundreds of thousands of California students went online to take standardized tests aligned to new academic standards without experiencing major technical problems.
The peak testing session for Smarter Balanced in 2019 so far occurred on May 7, when 683,673 California students logged in to take the tests from their laptops and tablets — a record number. In 2017, about 500,000 students went online at the peak of testing. That was still well below the capacity of the system, which can handle 1.75 million simultaneous users, according to state officials.
The testing window opened on Jan. 8 and will close on July 15 and most students have already started or completed the exam. As of June 4, about 3.1 million students had completed the Smarter Balanced tests out of an eligible 3.3 million.
The successful administration of the test reflects investments of tens of millions of dollars in recent years in upgrading the internet capacity of California’s schools.
However, a small number of schools, especially smaller ones in rural areas, are still having difficulties getting online to access the system. Educators there have to stagger test times to make sure they are not overloading their broadband capacities.
This is the fifth year that California students in 3rd to 8th and 11th grade are taking standardized tests aligned with the Common Core that school districts are required to administer by state and federal law. The new tests were the first online statewide assessments in California. The previous tests, known as the California Standards Tests, were aligned with the old standards and were all paper and pencil tests.
At the time Smarter Balanced testing began, many districts worried not only whether students would be prepared to take the tests, but whether they had adequate technology and broadband access in order to administer the online tests successfully. This year California added another online test, the California Science Test, putting additional pressures on the state’s online testing capacity. The science test is aligned with the Next Generation Science Standards, which are new science standards adopted by the state in 2013.
Today, most schools have the bandwidth they need to administer the online test. At least 92 percent of California students have access to the minimum internet speed that test developers recommend, according to an official from the K-12 High Speed Network, a state project funded by the California Department of Education to help expand high-speed internet to schools.
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