SBAC Field Tests: An Experiment With Chromebooks

SBAC Field Tests: An Experiment With Chromebooks

K12NN will be posting experiences teachers have as they prepare their students for the SBAC or PARCC Common Core State Standards tests or actually administer them as testing season rolls out across the country. The SBAC and PARCC tests are to be administered by computer and they function as the end-of-year summative assessment for students. These stories, while anonymous, are from actual classroom teachers and are real people verified by K12NN. Their identities are not disclosed to protect them from any possible political repercussions in the workplace.

From a California Teacher (SBAC):

I am a veteran teacher…have been teaching 29+ years from Kindergarten through middle school (although I teach high school math AT the middle school). I am a tech-head…can’t help myself as I started out as a computer science major before computers were even a big deal. So, when we were told that we’d get these ‘new’ computers for SBAC, I was intrigued…

The Chromebooks arrived and I was first in line to try them out. I had been asking about them for awhile and planned to use them with my two top classes (the two top classes at our school in math, one is THE top in the district for 8th grade). My plan was to try the Chromebooks out with the kids on the practice SBAC tests in math for 7th and 8th grade. Instead, I decided on a whim, to try it with ALL of my classes. My other classes? 6th grade mathematics, two incorporating the lower performing students in 6th grade math and one a slightly-higher performing group.

Last week, I used my Smart (ha! more like Dumb) Board to do a whole-class SBAC practice test with my 7th and 8th graders. THAT was an experience, in itself! We found that the SBAC 7th grade test basically tested ALGEBRA (and the skills were NOT what is found on the 7th grade CC$$). The 8th grade test? Are you ready? Content was primarily high school GEOMETRY (again, NOT what is found on the 8th grade CC$$). We got through, in 45 minutes, about six questions total. My students were incensed…the 7th graders are taking honors high school algebra I and the 8th graders take honors high school geometry. Their comments? “The test isn’t fair! We have learned this stuff but the other kids haven’t.” This was the overall consensus. (Of course, there were OTHER comments.)

I was looking forward, in a weird way, to hear their comments after experiencing the Chromebooks…

Here’s what I found…keep in mind this is the FIRST time the Chromebooks are being used with our students…the ONLY app that is on the Chromebook is the testing program. (Of course, I didn’t share the fact that the kids COULD access the internet IF they wanted to…I focused their attention and told them that there was only ONE app available to them).

Period 1 has 39 6th graders. Of the 40 Chromebooks (apparently, 40 is THE number for a class), two just flat out did NOT work; one did not have the app installed and the other refused to turn on. I had to give the one student one of my laptops to use. The first 30 students were able to log in and initiate the program in a reasonable time. Then, it took up to four minutes to get the other nine up and running. Once all 39 were up, some had to wait upwards of two to three minutes for the pages to load. Yep, that’s right! This was time for the PAGES to load! I told the kids to be patient and that it might take extra time since so many people were on the server at the same time.

Oh, did I mention that our school supposedly had new servers installed to accommodate the test?

Period 2 has 36 7th graders, all honors algebra I students. I had notified them that they could bring a mouse if they wanted to for the practice test. Half the class did. Again, loading issues abounded…several of the Chromebooks refused to even start up. I figured out that if I pressed the ESC and the power button that I could usually get the thing to power up. Besides being slow in the upload, comments were rampant that the ‘trackpad was too sensitive.” As for the mice? As long as they were USB mice, they worked regardless of PC/Mac.

Periods 3 and 4 are both 6th graders. 4th period had the biggest problems with the Chromebooks. Five refused to turn on (yes, they had all been charged and despite my being told to leave them on until noon, I realized by mid-2nd period that I would HAVE to close the lids on them or there would be issues! More on this later…). I have 39 in this class and again, had to have one student use a Mac laptop instead. I fiddled with the Chromebooks that weren’t working and finally got one to work.

My fave was period 6…the top geometry students (scored even higher than the high school students in geometry) in the district. Comments from them included, “[Teacher], this is ALL geometry! What are the other kids going to do? They haven’t had geometry. Hey, we were learning this the other day. Wait! We haven’t learned this one yet…” (My comment, “That’s what’s on the schedule for next week!”). …I haven’t even mentioned the ever-pressing issue with Chromebooks that did not load again. Nope…

So, my overall comments from today?
1. Even if there are 40 kids in a class to be tested, you need at least 42 to 45 Chromebooks to account for the HIGH probability that a number of them won’t work!

2. Chromebooks are slow…you need to be very patient. Three minutes for loading a page is not unusual if you have more than 30 students online at a time.

3. It is going to take extra time to just initiate the program. Perhaps the 2-hour block we are being provided for each test is due to the fact that so much time is spent WAITING for something to happen.

4. Although a number of servers are displayed, you can only use the one that is dedicated for the test. If you try to use a different one, it just won’t work! You are forced to restart the Chromebook all over again.

5. People who are not familiar or comfortable with computers are going to freak out. Two of the Chromebooks refused to turn on (yes, turn on) unless both the ESC and power buttons were pressed. People who are not comfortable or familiar with computers may not even think about this option.

6. Again, patience is necessary. It just takes a lot of waiting time…

7. If a Chromebook doesn’t want to turn on, the best thing to do is to press the power button so the screen goes dark, close the lid, wait a few seconds, and open the lid to see if it will start up again. (ARGH! Lots of this happened all day long.)

8. If you don’t press a button on the Chromebook because you are busy working the problem out on paper, you are in trouble because the Chromebook goes to sleep and you can NOT wake it up! You have to start all over from the very beginning again…

9. IF you can use a mouse, it is better to bring one to use. The trackpads are tricky and kids have a difficult time with them because they are too used to mice and TOUCH pads.

After speaking with [the] admin[inistration], my hopes of having MORE than 40 available for a class is just not going to happen because there are no extras. (eye roll) I am going to try the language arts practice test this upcoming week as the following week is when the kids are being assessed. At the very least, my kids have a modicum of knowledge of the issues that may arise with this upcoming state assessment.

I'm Cynthia Liu, Owner/Founder of K12 News Network. I'm the proud product of public schools through post-grad, the mom of a child in public schools, and the daughter of two teachers. Connect with me professionally on LinkedIn.

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2 Comments

  1. K-12 News Network | More on SBAC Practice Tests (California) - May 2, 2014, 4:15 pm

    […] From a California Teacher (SBAC), part II (read part I here): […]

  2. K-12 News Network | Actual SBAC Testing Conditions (California) - May 3, 2014, 9:11 am

    […] a California Teacher (SBAC), part III (read part I and part II […]

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