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TEA Approves Use Of Tablet Applications During 8th Grade STAARS Math Exam

Officials with the Texas Education Agency say 8th graders this year will be allowed to use calculator apps on a tablet during the math portion of their State of Texas Assessment of Academic Readiness end-of-course exam.

While to some it may not seem like a big deal, Debbie Ratcliffe with the TEA says it is, especially considering that no other standardized tests allow the use of apps during testing.

“The SAT, the ACT and the AP (advanced placement) don’t allow applications to be used, they require hand-held computers, so it is definitely the first time we did this on the state program," Ratcliffe said.

Ratcliffe said the TEA will be testing the effectiveness of using an app for helping students answer questions on this year’s end-of-course math exam. She said the use of tablets has become an integral part of the classroom.

“So many districts are buying their students iPads or something similar, but those iPads have a phone and the internet," Ratcliffe said. "So we debated it but we listened to the feedback we were getting from the field.”

“So the commissioner (Education Commissioner Michael Williams) decided to try a pilot and let just the students taking the 8th grade math test try it with a tablets if that’s what their district has and we’ll see how it goes," Ratcliffe said. "And we’re be closely monitoring the security to make sure that no cheating occurs and the test isn’t compromised.”

Ratcliffe said the commissioner will be strictly monitoring districts for incidents of cheating and the tablet must have a parental lock on during the time of the exam.