This week Florida students are taking the new Florida Standards Assessments writing test for the first time.
The test is online for students in 8th through 10th grade, which has led some to wonder whether it’s fair to ask students to type the exam rather than write by hand?
Lawmakers asked Education Commissioner Pam Stewart that question in November.
“Are we actually testing their writing,” Stewart said, “or are we then testing their computer skills? I would suggest to you the answer to that really is we need to be doing both.”
Typing was a big enough question about the FSA that the Florida Department of Education decided to let students through 7th grade take a paper and pencil version of the writing test.
But should it be? Florida has used online exams for several years. The state is requiring schools deliver half of classroom instruction digitally, starting this fall. And kids can be pretty adept with computers, tablets and other devices.
As we talked to students this week about what they were expecting on the new test, we asked about typing.
Samantha Arroyo is an 8th grader at Allapattah Middle School in Miami. She says the change is a big deal for her.
“One thing that puts a lot of pressure on me is that we have to type it out, and there’s only one hour,” she said of practice exams.
Still, she didn’t find the writing field test that much of a challenge.
“I thought it was not hard at all,” Arroyo said. “It was pretty simple to me.”
Allapattah Middle School had practice sessions, she said, but usually there isn’t much time left for typing once lessons are done.
Classmate Miikiah Stubbs agreed.
“We didn’t really have time to type inside the classroom,” Stubbs said. “If you finish a lesson already…you have to do that as a secondary thing.”
Justin Ford, a freshman at Pembroke Pines Charter High School, said the new format was part of why the new test will be more of a challenge.
“It is going to be difficult,” Ford said, adding he had run out of time during trial runs.
But the students at Miami’s iPrep Academy — which emphasizes the use of technology in lessons — didn’t think typing was a big deal.
“We had good enough time to finish the entire essay,” said freshman Anthony Ospina. He didn’t think the new writing test was all that different from the old one.
And freshman Lilian Romero agreed with the education commissioner.
“I don’t think typing our answers is a really big problem,” she said. “Going to a school with 21st-century type learning, it’s not really a big difficulty for us.
“I think it’s a good idea for us to have this…we’re going to have to get accustomed to typing things in our paperwork instead of writing them out.”