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North Carolina Online Test of Computer Skills. UPDATE SESSION PASI Summer 2005 Presenter: Scott Ragsdale. Session Purpose.

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North carolina online test of computer skills

North CarolinaOnline TestofComputer Skills



Summer 2005

Presenter: Scott Ragsdale

Session purpose
Session Purpose

This session will update the audience on recent developments with the North Carolina Online Test of Computer Skills and the North Carolina Computer Skills Alternate Assessment as the State prepares for operational implementation during the 2005-2006 school year

The five ages
The Five Ages

  • The Age of Anxiety

    • The world is coming to an end!

  • The Age of Reason

    • Why is world is coming to an end?

  • The Age of Knowledge

    • Facts you should know about the end of the world

  • The Age of Wisdom

    • Only the world as we know it is coming to an end

  • The Age of Enlighten “up” 

    • Take a breath, smile, and enjoy the fruits of a brave new world

The age of anxiety
The Age of Anxiety

Anxiety is the thin stream of fear trickling through the mind. If encouraged, it cuts a channel into which all other thoughts are drained.

Arthur Somers Roche

It has been said that our anxiety does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow, but only empties today of its strength.

Charles Spurgeon

The end is near
The End is Near!

  • 2005-2006 school year! That is this year!

  • This is not feasible! LEAs and schools do not have the technological capacity nor the technology staff to administer a web-based test!

  • Students do not know what they are doing! Taking the computer skills test online will only confuse and frustrate them!

  • Why move to a web-based delivery? Why change what we already know works? Are we intentionally trying to make our lives painful?

  • What about accessibility for ALL students?

The age of reason
The Age of Reason

The past is our definition. We may strive, with good reason, to escape it, or to escape what is bad in it, but we will escape it only by adding something better to it.

Wendell Berry

Conscience is our magnetic compass; reason our chart.

Joseph Cook

Why change
Why Change?

  • Two Separate Tests

    • Currently two separate tests required for student to fulfill computer proficiency requirement Student must pass each to demonstrate proficiency

      • Multiple-Choice

      • Performance

        In reality two tests are really one requirement!

Why change1
Why Change?

  • Time

    • Current administration times*

      • 1992 curriculum

        • Multiple Choice – 105 minutes

        • Performance – 90 minutes

      • 1998 curriculum

        • Multiple Choice – 110 minutes

        • Performance – 133 minutes

          *Note: Administration times do not include distribution of material, printing and organizing of student printouts [performance], packaging, shipping, and other logistical activities

          Time is precious! There never seems to be enough!

Why change2
Why Change?

  • Test Files

    • Currently supporting 26+ different software packages for performance test

    • Distribution of test files to field

    • Question of equity

      And more packages keep coming out each year!

Why change3
Why Change?

  • Paper

    • Printing of test materials

      • Test booklets

      • Answer documents

      • Header sheets and shipping lists

    • Excess Ordering

    • Printing of student work [performance]

    • Handling of materials

      @ 6% deforestation last year of the Amazon rain forest!

Why change4
Why Change?

  • Hand Scoring

    Currently performance test booklets are hand scored by a scoring contractor at a central location

    • Time

      • Fall administration – approximately 2 months

      • Spring administration – approximately 1 month

    • Costs

      • High

      • Scorers, staffing, spacing, supplies

Why change5
Why Change?

  • Hand scoring continued

    • Reliability

      • Scores are reliable and valid

      • Inter-rater reliability is high [93% +]

      • Reliability monitoring, qualified scorers


      • Potential for human error still exists

      • Student work does not always provide evidence that student used correct methods to accomplish task

        Why dig a hole with your hands when you have access to a shovel?

Why now
Why Now?

  • New Curriculum

    • New curriculum adopted in February 2004

    • Implemented starting with 2004-2005 school year

    • New curriculum = new instrument for measurement

  • Technology changing at an astonishing rate

  • Traditional paper tests will be archaic before long

  • Traditional hand scoring is outdated

    If you live in the past, the best you can hope for tomorrow is to look back at today!

Why not
Why Not?

  • Merge two tests into one…

  • Reduce the administration, testing, scoring, and logistical time required…

  • Provide a universal delivery to increase equity for a “standardized” test…

  • Eliminate costs of printing paper and reduce paper waste…

  • Decrease frustration of handling so much paper…

  • Maximize reliability and validity of scores…

  • Theoretically return scores more efficiently and timely…

  • Keep pace with the changing face of technology, testing, and scoring…

The age of knowledge
The Age of Knowledge

If facts are the seeds that later produce knowledge and wisdom, then the emotions and the impressions of the senses are the fertile soil in which the seeds must grow.

Rachel Carson

The first step towards knowledge is to know that we are ignorant.

Richard Cecil

The test
The Test

  • One test

    • Combines multiple-choice and performance items

  • 72 items total

    • 4 sections: 18 items per section

    • Items not delivered randomly, but also not divided into sections by specific strands/objectives [i.e., database section, etc.]

      • A database performance item may be followed by a multimedia multiple-choice item, in turn followed by a word processing performance item, etc.

The test1
The Test

  • Measures 2004 curriculum

  • Approximately 41 objectives tested

  • Performance items vs. Multiple-Choice items

    • 50% performance based

    • 50% multiple-choice based

  • Embedded field test items for future test development

The test2
The Test

  • Web-based delivery

  • NCDesk Integrated Java Applications Suite

    • Delivery of performance items within testing environment

    • Includes:

      • text editor/word processing application

      • database application

      • spreadsheet application

      • e-mail composer application – mimic application

      • window management application

The test environment
The Test Environment

  • Secure

    • Encrypted

    • Save function disabled in Java applications

  • Self-contained

    • Browser parameters set

      • No “surfing” of Internet within environment

      • No “cut, copy, paste” functionality outside of environment

  • Data Warehousing

    • Student responses stored on server when moving between sections and questions

      • Allows for recovery of test and data if workstations crash or other technical problems are encountered

The test environment1
The Test Environment

  • Screen Division

    • Frame contains functions and identifying information

    • Two parallel sub-windows

      • Item stem

      • Foils [multiple-choice] or application [performance]

      • Separate scroll bars for each

The test environment2
The Test Environment

  • Functions

    • Navigation

      • Sections do not allow for navigation between and amongst them

      • Returning to section is not permitted once section is completed

      • Navigation within sections is permitted

      • Navigational buttons [PREV (previous), NEXT]

        • Linear movement backwards or forwards within section

      • Navigation bar at end of section [section summary]

        • Non-linear movement to any item in section

The test environment3
The Test Environment

  • Functions

    • Restore

      • Clears item of changes and restores to original format

    • Flag

      • Identifies item on navigation bar at section end with a red question mark as an indicator that student may need to re-visit prior to exiting section

      • Student can still exit section if items are flagged

The test environment4
The Test Environment

  • Functions

    • End Section

      • Links to section summary page

    • Pause

      • Pauses the test at the immediate location for recovery without exiting test environment

The test environment5
The Test Environment

  • Section number identified on each item page [i.e., Section 1]

  • Item number within section identified on each item page [i.e., Question 2 of 18]

  • Section summary

    • Makes summary statement of how many items in the section were answered and/or flagged

    • Navigation bar also identifies items answered and flagged

    • Continue button moves to next section

      • Displays warning message that once exiting section, return is not permitted

      • Reconfirms intent to exit section


  • Center of the Universe

    • Test

      • Access test at Log in page [School code, User name, Password]

    • Test Simulation

      • Practice activity to simulate real test environment

    • Verify Connection

      • Runs test to verify if secure connection to test server is established

    • Documentation

      • Links to website for information, updates, etc

    • Applications

      • Access to all applications integrated in test environment for use and familiarization


  • Administrative - User access rights functions. Users are state level administrators, regional level administrators, local district test coordinators, school test coordinators, test administrators, and possibly teachers.

  • Bulk Registration - Function to allow bulk file uploads of student records to register large groups of students to a testing window.

  • Single Registration - Function to allow registration of single student to a testing window.

  • Test Session Scheduling - Indicating numbers of students at a school per test administration

  • Student Information Questions (SIQ) -- additional data collection process

  • Reports


  • NCDesk is a locally installed client Java application

    • Client computers must have Java runtime installed

  • Quality Internet connection required for accessing test environment

    • Internet connection not required for NCDesk applications when used for learning and practice

  • NCDesk communicates with a central server for testing [not hosted locally]

  • Auto-update system check for current NCDesk version

  • Sufficient RAM recommended

  • CPU of good clock speed and recent vintage recommended

  • Minimum amount of drive space available

  • Sufficient amount of bandwidth required during testing

  • Best Resource for technical recommendations


Technical Notes - Proposed Client Computer Requirements

Special Note: Client computer systems running the minimum 128Mb RAM need to reduce the number of background applications running when trying to use NCDesk. Background applications consume memory resources that can become critically low when other applications are running. These types of applications include hidden applications, system inits (Macintosh) and system tray applications (Windows). The following proposed client computer requirements are posted with the assumption that currently active background applications are at a minimum.

Stages of development
Stages of Development

  • Feasibility Studies/Trials

    • Conduct research into feasibility of delivering web-based test environment

    • Conduct research into performance of local and central technology during delivery

    • Conduct research into overall performance of test environment and applications

    • Conduct research into item performance within test environment and applications

    • Receive feedback and implement debugging, redevelopment, or new development

Stages of development1
Stages of Development

  • Field Testing

    • Conduct further research into overall performance of test environment and applications

    • Conduct research into item performance

    • Use data and items to construct operational form(s)

    • Receive feedback and implement debugging or redevelopment where needed. Note: implementation of change can only occur where not affecting performance of item

Stages of development2
Stages of Development

  • Operational

    • Form(s) built using viable items from field testing

      • Based on item performance, feedback, analysis, IRT (Item Response Theory), psychometric review, etc.

    • Implementation “locks” forms and items for future

    • Standards/Proficiency indicators established

    • Delivery as instrument for determining proficiency

The past
The Past

  • Fall 2003

    • Feasibility Study/Trial

      • Volunteer sites

      • Adults only

      • 1,926 starts: 1,351 finishes

      • 62 LEAs represented, 193 schools

    • Ongoing debugging and development of technology, test environment, and items

  • Fall 2004

    • Feasibility Study/Trial

      • At minimum, 10 locally chosen students per school containing eighth-grade students

      • 5,620 starts: 4,783 finishes

    • Ongoing development and debugging of technology, test environment, and items

The past1
The Past

  • Spring 2005

    • Field Test

      • Sampled population of schools and students

      • Window: April 11 – June 15

      • 8,510 students chosen for sample

      • 6,361 starts: 6,198 finishes

      • Alternate Assessment also field tested

        • Window: May 9 – June 15

        • 2000 students chosen for sample

    • Ongoing debugging and development of technology, test environment, and items

The present
The Present

  • Analysis of field test data

    • Item performance, results, feedback from field

  • Development and implementation of scoring parameters for items

  • Analysis of technical issues arising during field testing

    • Ongoing debugging and development of technology and test environment

  • Creation of operational form(s) based on analysis of field test data

  • Development of new items [item writing] for embedding in the future

The future
The Future

  • Operational implementation starting with the 2005-2006 school year

    • Students entering eighth-grade

    • Testing Window

    • Daily Administration Blocks

  • Standard setting

    • Determining proficiency

  • Ongoing development of items [item writing] and technology

  • Ongoing evaluation and monitoring of technical and infrastructure issues both at the central and local level

Computer skills alternate assessment
Computer Skills Alternate Assessment

  • Why?

    • Results of feasibility study and Federal mandates required development of an alternate assessment instrument for two distinct populations:

      • Students with special needs who could not access the online test using available accommodations

      • Students who could not access the online test as a result of technical/technology limitations [i.e., unable to meet minimum requirements for bandwidth, memory, etc.]

Computer skills alternate assessment1
Computer Skills Alternate Assessment

  • Field tested Spring 2005

  • Different delivery from online test, but equal rigor of standard [item difficulty level, thinking skills, etc.]

  • One test consisting of two distinct sections

Computer skills alternate assessment2
Computer Skills Alternate Assessment

  • Multiple-Choice Section

    • 36 items

    • Traditional

  • Performance Section

    • 27 total items

      • 26 performance-based, administrator rated [yes or no] items

      • 1 administrator rated [yes or no] item evaluating student proficiency with computer over course of time

    • Computer-based

    • Individualized administration

    • Use supplied files and local applications [i.e., word processing, database, etc.] to complete tasks required by items

    • Files provided in text format for conversion into local applications [PDFs provided to serve as blueprints]

Computer skills alternate assessment3
Computer Skills Alternate Assessment

  • Item performance, results, and feedback being analyzed at this time

  • Possibility [probability] of being field tested again in the Fall 2005

  • Some issues with local administrators and technology staff having to convert text files into local applications

    • Probability that necessary test files will be provided for State supported platforms/packages in future administrations

Accessibility issues
Accessibility Issues

  • Definite accessibility issues with online testing!

  • Standard accommodations are still available

  • Choice of large or regular font size for NCDesk

  • Keyboard and mouse actions functional

  • Currently developing the ability to integrate and support assistive technology [i.e., screen readers]

  • Exploring multiple options for accessibility [zoom functions, etc.]

  • Implementation of additional assistive technology likely an extended process


  • Helpdesk

    • Activated for feasibility studies/trials, field testing, and will be available for operational administration

    • Assistance provided prior to, during, and after testing

    • Addresses NCRegistration, NCDesk, Computer Skills Alternate Assessment, and any other issues involved in delivery and implementation of online test


  • Mobile Labs

    • Available for schools/systems unable to test because of technical limitations

    • By request only [actual process for requests still in development]

    • Availability issues and division of time

The age of wisdom
The Age of Wisdom

It is no longer enough to be smart — all the technological tools in the world add meaning and value only if they enhance our core values, the deepest part of our heart. Acquiring knowledge is no guarantee of practical, useful application. Wisdom implies a mature integration of appropriate knowledge, a seasoned ability to filter the inessential from the essential.

Doc Childre and Deborah Rozman

Learn wisdom from the ways of a seedling. A seedling which is never hardened off through stressful situations will never become a strong productive plant.

Stephen Sigmund

The meaning
The Meaning?

  • Online testing is the future

    • Most states are in the process of either implementing or maintaining an online testing program

    • North Carolina is moving forward with online testing…this is only the beginning

  • Students are far more positive about online testing than administrators/teachers/staff

    • Trends suggest students more comfortable and engaged with online testing…overwhelming support from them

  • Technology concerns are warranted, but…

    • Implementation of technology will become seamless over time as traditional options for testing are exhausted

    • Systems/schools have been successful in implementing this test

Basic necessities for success
Basic Necessities for Success

  • Dissemination and sharing of information

    • Local, State, National, International

    • Use resources available and act as a resource

    • Communication

  • Question

    • Online testing is a new world so do not be afraid to question things or offer your opinion

  • Support

    • There will be some growing pains, but never waver in your support

    • Support at all levels, between all divisions and peoples is absolutely required

  • Learn

    • Do not be complacent in your knowledge, always seek more

    • Familiarity = Understanding = Less frustration, stress, and anxiety for all

The age of enlighten up
The Age of Enlighten “up”

This I conceive to be the chemical function of humor: to change the character of our thought.

Lin Yutang

Humor is perhaps a sense of intellectual perspective: an awareness that some things are really important, others not; and that the two kinds are most oddly jumbled in everyday affairs.

Christopher Morley

A brighter future
A Brighter Future

  • Yes, anxiety is expected, normal, and okay

  • Yes, change can be painful

  • Yes, this is a serious matter not to be taken lightly


  • Never lose perspective on what is important

  • Think about why we are really doing this and who it ultimately benefits

  • Understand that we are all in this together, for better or worse, so let us all be friends, not enemies

    And lastly…

  • Smile and be confident in knowing that, though pioneers, we are moving in the right direction



    • Link to home page of the North Carolina Online Test of Computer Skills


    • Direct link to the home page for the NCDesk application suite


    • Link to Computer/Technology Skills Standard Course of Study on the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction website


    • Link to Computer/Technology Skills page for Curriculum and School Reform on the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction website


    • Link to computer skills testing information on the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction website


    • Link to Technology Implementation & Planning Services page on the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction website


    • Link to Technology Services page on the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction website

Contact information
Contact Information

Scott Ragsdale

Project Manager, North Carolina Computer Skills Assessments

[email protected]

Randy Craven

Technical Manager

[email protected]

Jim Kroening

Program Manager, Performance Assessments

[email protected]

Final thought
Final Thought

The important thing in life is not where we are, but in which direction we are moving.

Oliver Wendell Holmes