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Inexorable and Inevitable: The Continuing Story of Technology and Assessment CBT

Bennett, Randy Elliot
Publication Year:
Report Number:
ETS Research Memorandum
Document Type:
Page Count:
Subject/Key Words:
Technology, Educational Assessment, Computer-Based Testing (CBT), State Assessment, K-12


In this paper, the author argues that the inexorable advance of technology will force fundamental changes in the format and content of assessment. Technology is infusing the workplace, leading to widespread requirements for workers skilled in the use of computers. Technology is also finding a key place in education. This is occurring not only because technology skill has become a workplace requirement. It is also happening because technology provides information resources central to the pursuit of knowledge and because the medium allows for the delivery of instruction to individuals who couldn't otherwise obtain it. As technology becomes more central to schooling, assessing students in a medium different from the one in which they typically learn will become increasingly untenable. Education leaders in several states and numerous school districts are acting on that implication, implementing technology-based tests for low- and high-stakes decisions in elementary and secondary school and across all key content areas. While some of these examinations are already being administered statewide, others will take several years to bring to fully operational status. These groundbreaking efforts will undoubtedly encounter significant difficulties that may include cost, measurement, technological-dependability, and security issues. But most importantly, state efforts will need to go beyond the initial achievement of computerizing traditional multiple-choice tests to create assessments that facilitate learning and instruction in ways that paper measures cannot.

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