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State's New Computerized Exam Plagued by Glitches

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    NEWSLETTERS

    The trial rollout of California's new standardized exams, administered for the first time on computers, has been plagued by technical glitches, according to a newspaper investigation.

    Students taking the tests this spring experienced slow connections, frozen screens, and mysterious log-offs -- and in some cases their work disappeared completely, the Los Angeles Times reported Monday.

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    Because it was a trial run, the results will not be used to evaluate students, teachers or schools.

    "I think the results would be horrible if the tests had been counted this year," said Elizabeth Topkis, the testing coordinator at the Los Angeles Center for Enriched Studies.

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    This was considered a year to allow school districts to work out problems and get used to the new exams, which will be covered by $51 million set aside in the state budget.

    The California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress exam replaces multiple-choice, fill-in-the-bubble exams, taken with pencil and paper.

    For years, those test scores defined the progress of schools and districts, determining awards and sanctions, even real estate prices, the Times said. In some places, including Los Angeles, the scores were linked to teacher evaluations.

    Students complained that the tests were harder -- both in terms of content and in using computers.

    For the first time, some questions have more than one correct answer; many are open-ended. Others include listening to audio. To answer some questions, students must create a graph or a geometric shape. Also included is a "performance task" that follows a 30-minute scripted lesson from the teacher and culminates in an essay, the newspaper said.

    The questions themselves are based on new state learning standards, called the Common Core, adopted by 44 states, which are supposed to focus on deeper learning skills rather than rote memorization.

    As of last week, more than 2.7 million students had completed the new standardized tests; a total of 3.2 million are scheduled to take the new exam before June 6.

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