The move to entirely electronic testing protocol for No Child Left Behind testing has proven to be beneficial for Granite School District. It holds the attention of children longer and puts results in the hands of teachers sooner.
"They see only one question at a time and there's no temptation to rush through them like there is if they have the opportunity to look at them all at once," said Karen Tohinaka, computer-based testing specialist for Granite schools. "And we get the results in 48 hours. That's marvelous to guide instruction."
And guide it does.
Woodrow Wilson Elementary fourth-grade teacher Misty Butterfield said having the test results in-hand before the end of the school year helps to prepare her class for what's next.
"It validates what I'm doing as a teacher," she said. "I know right off what they still need to learn, and I have another month to teach it to them."
Although the testing process creates added stress for those involved, Butterfield says it's "worthwhile to know what they're learning."
Students also seemed to like the computer-based testing more than filling in bubbles on Scantron sheets, as they breezed through Thursday's session of the science, math and language arts components of Utah's Criterion Reference Test the equivalent of national requirements for President Bush's mandated No Child Left Behind.
"It's easier to do it on the computer," said Matthew Stevens, 9. "There are more tools to help you."
His classmate, Anna Zavala, also 9, agreed.
"It's pretty easy 'cause we know computers," she said.
The multiple-choice tests, which cover all the basic subject areas in a four-week window, are required each year as a measure of a student's progress. For the past five years, Granite has been working to get all schools within the district online, "to make it easier for everyone," Tohinaka said.
"As kids, they're not afraid of anything and they learn things a lot faster," she said. Students perform practice tests online, so taking the actual test online is more streamlined.
Most of Granite's schools have more than one computer lab, but scheduling in secondary schools makes it difficult to get every student tested in a timely matter. Currently, Granite has 75 schools enrolled in the online program, with only a few schools still using the traditional method, filling tiny, little bubbles with a No. 2 pencil.
The move to a technology-based learning environment isn't exclusive to testing centers. Classrooms across the Granite district are getting upgrades to include interactive white boards, projectors and other equipment to engage students in learning, Tohikana said.
"The majority of our students are getting it," said Granite Testing Director Darrell Thomas. For a "transient school" such as Wilson Elementary, he said, the state-required curriculum is keeping everyone on track as well as can be expected with so many students moving around.Thomas said getting all the schools online has helped most with getting testing results in a timely manner.