My interest was piqued by Liz Moore’s recent article, “No Test Left Behind?” In it, she paints a nuanced picture of the move underway in many schools to administer standardized tests online vs. with paper and pencil.

Online testing, if there are no administrative or technical issues, can be highly efficient. Online tests certainly save paper.  But Moore’s article raises key questions about test security and, more importantly, equity. Equity is not just a matter of whether a student has access to a working laptop or good bandwidth. Equity has more to do, I think, with whether or not a student is able to bring to bear all of his or her skills in a test setting.

An additional question not raised in Moore’s article is, do online tests actually help students to build their digital literacy skills in meaningful ways? I’m not sure they do.

In “Prioritizing in-Class Writing” in this month’s issue of Educational Leadership, Catlin Tucker argues that the best way to build a child’s digital literacy is to teach and expect him or her to toggle between online and offline activities. Using a station rotation model where students move at their own pace through different things including talking 1-1 with their teacher, observing model lessons, receiving real-time feedback, finding evidence in printed materials, watching how-to instructional videos, and then writing informally offline and then more formally online, Tucker and teachers like her are able to significantly build important test and life skills in their students.

Standardized test makers have long quantified us with their fill in the blank, one-size-fits-all style assessments. In their recent move away from paper and pencil to online tests, they are missing an opportunity to really assess the skills most needed today: the ability to read, work and live in digital and real life spaces, and to move fluently between and among them.



Jessica is a doctoral candidate, education consultant, writer and editor. She is the founder of bookclique, a collaborative of English teachers and students working to promote book culture, and a co-founder of Well-Schooled, the site for educator storytelling, dedicated to sharing first-person educator stories. All Rights Reserved - What I Learned Today in School.