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Computerized Testing Possible for Pleasantville

PLEASANTVILLE, N.Y. – The responsibility of administering New York State exams may soon be shifted to local school districts in the form of computer-based testing, according to Pleasantville Schools Superintendent Mary Fox-Alter.

“We received a memo from the state Education Department that basically announces that in the school year 2014-15, that we will be going to computer-based testing,” she said. “Meaning that every child taking an assessment in the state, being a three-through-eight test, all the Regents exams, they will all be done online.”

Fox-Alter believes the unfunded mandate would significantly cut into the district’s budget, and estimates that providing bandwidth alone for such tests would cost the district about $50,000 per year.

She said additional costs would come from having technicians on standby to make sure the devices are working properly and that wireless Internet is working, and to check devices ahead of time for spyware or cheating guides.

“This is a huge unfunded mandate in my opinion, and it was announced with this little paragraph saying it’s helping prepare our kids for the future. I don’t think so.” Fox-Alter said. “They already know how to take tests online. This is just smoke and mirrors really for cost-shifting.”

Fox-Alter believes the state has other issues it needs to take care of with its exams, such as fixing typos and questions that have more than one correct answer.

According to school board President Lois Winkler, the change in testing will be discussed when the state Senate’s Education Committee meets on June 11 in Albany . The public meeting is called “The Evolution of Student Assessments: Where we started; where we are; and where we should be going.”

Winkler said the state sent a questionnaire to school district’s throughout the state asking for input on testing, however, board member Lou Conte said he may attend the June 11 meeting.

“I heard from the community more drama about the tests than I did about the budget, to be honest,” Conte said. “I heard more feedback that this was stressful on kids, that the process seemed to be causing anxiety. Now, anxiety is part of the real world, but this is quickly getting to be a bit out of control.”

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