LETTER TO THE EDITOR

Disadvantages of Regular Paperless Testing in district

Posted 1/28/18

John went for his annual physical, and his doctor gave him an overall score of his health on a scale of 1-100. John would like details, not a score. John would like to know what area is deficient, so that John can focus on those areas, "his" areas …

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LETTER TO THE EDITOR

Disadvantages of Regular Paperless Testing in district

Posted

John went for his annual physical, and his doctor gave him an overall score of his health on a scale of 1-100. John would like details, not a score. John would like to know what area is deficient, so that John can focus on those areas, "his" areas of concern. Would he feel better if his doctor said, "Most of my patients don't have cancer? However, John may suspect that he has it. John wants to know about HIS health, not most of his doctor's patients. It's the same with the Mastery Connect software on students' laptops (chrome books) which only gives each student a score. Each student needs and deserves to know more.

For example, Ann is having problems with her vehicle and takes it to a repair shop for a diagnosis. The diagnostic machine gives the vehicle a low or mediocre score. The customer asks, "What is the problem?" The technician replies, "Here's your score." Ann, the customer would like the know the details such as "What system is not operating properly or not at all? How much would it cost and how long would it take to do the repairs?" What can the customer do with just a score?

Mastery Connect is like that for elementary, middle, and high school students. It gives them just a score. What can they do with that? Each student needs to know what he or she missed, AND be allowed time to write down what he or she missed to learn from mistakes made. Better yet, assessments with students' answers should be printed to enhance student learning and achievement. It's sad that public school students nor parents don't get to see their quizzes and tests due to this software, Mastery Connect.

The paperless concept has been extended to some homework, all quizzes, and all tests for at least 98% of my child's school year in all of her core subjects (Math, Science, English/ELA, and Social Studies/History). She goes to school to take her quizzes and tests on-line, on her laptop (chrome book). She sees her score within seconds. The screen does not tell her what problems that she missed. She receives no print-out to review problems missed. We wait to see grades posted on the PowerSchool app. Paperless testing on laptops (chrome books) is the required mode of operation for all public school teachers in Sumter County due to the expense of the software, Mastery Connect. If teachers don't use Mastery Connect, they get in trouble. If my daughter's score is less than an A, what does she have to see her mistakes? Nothing. Yet, around the time of the Quarter Tests (tests at the end of every 9 weeks in all 4 basic subjects), MAP testing, and PASS testing, students are told to pick "SC standards to work on." How? All that students have are "scores." Students and parents wait to see it posted on the PowerSchool app. If it's less than an A, what does she or other students have to see to learn from her mistakes? Nothing.

Only home-schooled students and those enrolled in private schools have the opportunity to see what they missed on all quizzes and all tests to learn from their mistakes. Does becoming a STEM school to produce "technology-ready, world competitors" mean the loss of individual, basic rights like seeing each quiz and each test taken? It's currently like a "privilege" or "favor" instead of a basic right for students and parents to see all quizzes and all tests. (Of course, standardized, state testing must be the exception.) Paperless may work for sales receipts, bank statements, insurance documents, etc., but not for education, at least not exclusively. Make print-outs in conjunction for all Mastery Connect quizzes and tests. Paper is cheap. Mastery Connect cannot solve all academic problems and has created the problems I have cited throughout my commentary. Mastery Connect is more advantageous to teachers, curriculum coaches, principals, and district officials for statistics, but it has only one advantage for students: just an immediate score.

I've been told by a high school teacher that since, they meet for their subject (Science) and create unit tests together instead of separately, it's like a standardized test. Therefore, a student cannot receive a written copy of his/her test after it's graded. They cannot even see it nor take a picture of it. Parents have been denied the opportunity to see their children's regular quizzes and tests.

I've also been told that for high school, students' English papers cannot be returned after being graded. I was told that even among students in Honors classes, they copy parts or submit the whole paper of a family member or friend to their teachers. So, English papers and tests are also not returned. They are kept in a folder until the student graduates from high school. Yet, in college, tests and English papers are returned to students after they are graded within that same semester.

Now that the Sumter School District will allow teachers to have more time for professional development on Fridays, I can only imagine how many more teachers will create tests together which will make it "standardized" and not returnable to students and parents. In summary, schools cannot go paperless like banks, but even banks give the option for printing and mailing statements. In subjects like Math and Science requiring mathematical computations, it is imperative for students to see what questions were missed so that they can learn from their mistakes. Seeing just a score leaves students and parents in the dark. The Mastery Connect software on students laptops (chromebooks) is a win-win for teachers, curriculum coaches, principals, and academic officers in the district office. Someone needs to create or purchase software that is a win-win for faculty AND students.

My high school child just took her English E.O.C. (End of Course Exam) which included a story about a homosexual couple. This bothers me. Is there no other way to test English skills?

PEARL WATSON

Sumter