Public schools in West Virginia are making more and more use of computers and the Internet. It comes naturally to students more comfortable with a search engine than an index.
A variety of obstacles must be overcome to digitalize classrooms to the extent some proponents want. A sampling of the large-scale challenge is being seen this spring.
Students in Mountain State schools have been taking standardized tests for many years. For good or ill, they are an integral part of the education process.
Until now, the testing process has been accomplished in just a few days each year, using pencils and paper. This year, the state Department of Education began administering the WESTEST via the Internet.
Now, because of limited availability of computers and the need to avoid overloading the testing website, the process is spread over a few weeks. Students take the exams in shifts.
Despite preliminary testing, schools throughout the state reportedly have encountered problems. They have included computers that would not handle the WESTEST examinations and possibly glitches with the website itself.
WESTEST results are used in several ways, both to evaluate individual students and to look at how teachers, schools and county school districts are performing. Clearly, this spring's experience raises a huge caution sign.
Simply because the testing process was different - computers instead of pencils and paper - students' performances may not be comparable with past WESTEST results. Problems in administering the test also must be factored into the equation.
That said, educators from throughout the state should be asked to evaluate the experiment. So should technicians who may be able to address problems on that end.
It simply will not do to declare online adminstration of the WESTEST was a bad idea. The technique will become widespread, probably universal, quickly.
Both at the local and state levels, then, the wrinkles will have to be ironed out. No time should be wasted in accomplishing that.