TAKS Online, No Pencil Required

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Texas joins 21 other states this year by offering its standardized test, the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills or TAKS, online. Although districts aren't required yet to offer the exam online, Bryan and College Station are trying to stay ahead of the game, but getting 100 percent online won't happen overnight.

"At this point, the state is asking you to test at least a portion of your campus online so they can start comparing the paper version to the computer version," said Donna Willett, Bryan ISD.

Willett says, TEA requirements state all schools must offer the TAKS online by the 2007-2008 school year. She expects that deadline will be pushed back, but BISD still wants to be ahead of schedule.

"We felt like we needed to get students used to testing online," said Willett.

Advocates say online testing is cheaper, allows for quicker results and provides the exam in a format most comfortable to students. Change however, does bring on some concerns.

"It will be much easier to do it online. The issue is just how you have enough computers for everyone to be tested?" she said.

That worry is shared by College Station ISD.

"If you have a school like our high school, where we'd be testing in 9th and 10th grade over 1,300 students at one time, we don't have the number of computers to be able to keep up with that," said Clark Ealy, College Station ISD.

College Station ISD will also offer the TAKS online, but only in a select number of high school subjects.

"Some of our students in high school who will be taking the field test in biology and geometry will do that in the spring," said Ealy.

Both districts had test groups take the TAKS online this summer. So how did they do?

"We were really encouraged by the process we went through," said Ealy.

"Before long, it'll be just like testing through the booklet and Scantron method," said Willett.

But until that day comes, both districts will have paper tests and number two pencils on hand as a backup.