Question: After past computer problems with elections and Obamacare, who would have thought that technological glitches would have tripped up Florida's high-stakes FCAT standardized exams?
Answer: Any thinking person with half a brain.
Lots of people, myself included, raised concerns about the movement toward computer-based testing when state officials approved the move a few years ago.
After all, computers crash and burn (and raise suspicions about whether they can be trusted) all the time.
We saw it when Florida's election system rushed toward an all-computer system after the 2000 election debacle.
And we saw it with the massive failure of the federal healthcare exchange enrollment site last fall.
And now we're seeing it with widespread problems with FCAT tests, which are taking place at public and charter schools across Florida this week.
Seems screens have been freezing between questions, leaving students and teachers stymied. Test schedules had to be extended. Some students had to start over on new computers. So much for consistency and fairness.
Of course, this is what can happen when you become over-reliant on technology.
So now my biggest question is the same thing I asked after voting switched to computers: Do we need a verifiable paper trail?
After all, if the actual testing part has problems, then can't there be problems with the results? How can the system -- and testing company Pearson -- be trusted? How do we know the answers that were inputted are the answers that get tabulated?
Call me old-fashioned, but that's where pen-and-paper comes in handy. If there's any doubt about what's taken place, you have something tangible, something physical, to look at.
That's why we've gone back to paper ballots -- with computerized scanning and tabulation -- for elections. Paper ballots can be easily scrutinized for recounts. Computerized ether can not.
The same should go for standardized testing. Test booklets and answer grids should be on paper. That way, the results can be easily examined. And the administration of tests would not be subject to computer crashes.
An argument can also be made that computerized testing is biased, skewing toward students who have more access to and experience with computers. That is, students from better economic backgrounds. Classrooms have computers, but students who are surrounded by the latest high-tech equipment at home will probably feel more comfortable with computerized testing than those who do not.
Some say that becoming technologically facile should be part of today's educational system given the world we live in, and that's true to a certain extent.
But when it comes to testing, technology shouldn't trump practicality.
Sometimes, simpler is better.
Computers aren't the answer to everything.
Florida and national education officials and politicians should reexamine the rush toward compulsory computerized testing. It's part of the Common Core standards being implemented nationwide.
Perhaps it's time for students and teachers to demand what skeptical voters did:Paper trail, please.