Computer Tests Widen Writing Achievement Gap for Low-Income Kids

by Parent Co. January 12, 2016

The Department of Education wants to move students to computerized assessments. They're faster, easier and cheaper to grade than hand-written tests.

However, as highlighted by (@jillbarshay) for Hechingerreport.org, a 2012 U.S. Department of Education study reveals a potentially major flaw with this plan: Low-income kids don't get as much practice typing or writing on a computer as higher-income kids. When it's time to test their writing skills on a computer, the lower-income kids are slower and less able to write because they don't know how to effectively type and edit with a computer keyboard vs higher-income kids who have better access to computers. When tested with a pencil and paper, low-income students produced better writing using than they did with the computer. Simply put, the "Performance of fourth-grade students in the 2012 NAEP computer-based writing pilot assessment" found that "the use of the computer may have widened the writing achievement gap." As quoted on Hechingerreport.org, Steve Graham, a professor at Arizona State University said:

"Your familiarity with the tool makes a difference. They actually do better writing by hand if they’re less experienced . And if they’re more experienced, then there may actually be an advantage toward writing on the computer.”

Solutions might include teaching kids how to type efficiently on a computer keyboard. This also includes teaching how to cut, paste, delete and edit in a digital document.
Source: Using computers widens the achievement gap in writing, a federal study finds on Hechingerreport.org



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