Friday, April 4, 2008


Those instructions on the whiteboard show that national annual testing for Spanish students has entered cyberspace. HHS students studying honors Spanish have taken advantage of the new National Spanish Exam which for the past three years has been given entirely on line. The 150 students taking the exam can log in weeks ahead and practice on their own as much or as little as they wish. On the two exam days classes come to the computer lab, enter elaborate security codes, and take the two 40-minute sections of the test itself.

On the first day they answer written questions about grammar and vocabulary. On the second day they listen to online recordings of spoken Spanish and type in their responses. The exam allows them to measure themselves alongside 89,000 Spanish students nationwide, and to earn certificates when the scores are announced in May at HHS's Foreign Language banquet. Scores don't count for grades at HHS. The exam is administered by the American Association of Teachers of Spanish and Portuguese.

Cara Wallace-Lee, who oversaw the exam for the computer lab, writes: "I’ve been able to plan around some of the regular challenges that arise, such as setting up the home page using the Firefox browser (more cooperative), monitoring the computer equipment, on-the-spot troubleshooting, and reminding students to slow down and pay attention to the instructions.

"The positives of an online exam are less of a chance of having lost or damaged tests, no need to ship out completed exams, and quicker turnaround for test results. The security of the online system makes scoring, notifying teachers and awarding prizes much simpler."