State officials are hopeful that by the 2014-15 school year, the bubble-in pencil and paper Connecticut Mastery Test taken by third- through eighth-graders will be replaced by a new, more personalized online testing system, the Hartford Courant reports.

As a student works through the new computerized test, the proceeding questions will vary depending on whether the previous questions were answered correctly. The interactive test is designed to identify students’ skills and deficiencies, and will adjust the number of questions that are asked depending on how the student performs.

The new online system also offers a series of mini-tests available for teacher use throughout the school year to quiz students on their understanding and progress.

In addition to including audio and video components, the new test will feature “performance task” questions that require students to do research, plot data points on a graph or use tools like a ruler in recording their answer.

According to the Courant, one sample performance task question asks students to read a short story and article, watch a video, review research statistics and then write a persuasive essay on their opinion of virtual schools.

“In the real world, the tasks that we are asked to perform in the workplace or in life do not involve bubble sheets,” Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor said. “They involve research, analysis and the use of items that we find in the real world.”

Connecticut is one of 27 states working with the Smarter Balanced Assessment Curriculum to develop a test for English language arts and mathematics that aligns with the Common Core State Standards, which have been adopted by 45 states.

Two years ago, the federal government allocated $350 million in Race to the Top funds to Smarter Balanced and the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers to devise new testing systems based on the aforementioned core standards.

Pryor said the test is still in the developmental phase, and it is unclear whether it will be ready by 2014.

The test will pull from more than 35,000 questions and will cost $19.81 per student. Renee Savoie, an education consultant with Connecticut’s Department of Education, said she does not anticipate the state spending more on the Smarter Balanced test than it did on the comparative mastery and academic performance tests.

And as online exams are becoming more popular across states, students are spending more hours in testing than before. In Delaware's Appoquinimink school district, students are taking three to four versions of the state math and reading tests online every year. An added concern to online exams is that the new tests could further disadvantage poor children who are already struggling to keep up.

“Lots of kids are really comfortable with technology, but there’s a cross-section of kids that don’t have a lot of access,” Douglas Levin, director of the State Educational Technology Directors Association, which is helping states get ready for the switch, told the Hechinger Report. “There is a fear that for kids who do not have regular access to this technology, the test may be measuring the kids’ comfort with technology, and not” their academic knowledge.

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