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Ready or not, online assessments here we come!

24 Jul 2014 by Heather Breedlove

“Regardless of whether your state or district is participating is in the Common Core State Standards online assessments are an important part of transforming our schools,” said John Keller, Director of Technology and eLearning at Metropolitan School District of Warren Township during the Ready or not, online assessments here we come! panel at ISTE 2014.

School districts are moving assessments online for a variety reasons including preparing for the SBAC and PARCC assessments. District and statewide online assessments give timely feedback, quickly aggregate data for the teachers, reduces the burden for teachers and decreases testing time. The session discussed experiences, recommendations and practices of three school districts who implemented online assessments.

The eight key recommendations for becoming assessment ready:

  • Creating a strategic planning team
  • Secure funding sources
  • Embed technology in instructional practice
  • Invest in robust professional development for teachers, administrators and technical staff
  • Build out a robust infrastructure
  • Select the right hardware
  • Communicate- a lot
  • Pay attention to logistics

From Raising the Bar Becoming Assessment Ready executive summary, by Education Networks of America (ENA), Consortium for School Networking (CoSN), and eLearn Institute

Preparing for online assessments involves different groups working together to create a strategic plan. Key stakeholders in the school district, governing board, IT department, teachers, parents, and students all need to work together to in order to create a plan that outlines the transition.

Funding comes from a variety of sources for school districts. Many are receiving money through the E-rate program, grants, business partnerships and their own budget. Funding sources are constantly shifting so districts need to be mindful of that in creating their strategic plan.

Even though the school districts were moving to online assessments to prepare their students for the technology and media rich components of Common Core assessments, that was not their only focus. Having assessments online means a shift to digital content and curriculum too.

Metropolitan School District of Warren Township is adopting a blended learning model where 30% to 70% of curriculum will be digital, depending on the grade level of the students. This approach scaffolding the technology skills needed to shift to digital content and curriculum. They believe increasing the digital content will also increase the ability to personalize learning for their students.

To support teachers for this shift, Metropolitan School District of Warren Township invested into instruction. They re-wrote the Math and ELA curriculum to reflect their 1:1 environment, utilized coaches to help teachers personalize the curriculum, and provided ongoing training in Google Apps and SAMR model. Teachers created goals to meet the new digital learning components and staff evaluations reflected expectations for integration of technology in the classroom.

Districts are assessing bandwidth and hardware to ensure they will be ready for the media-rich components of Common Core assessments. Clark County School District in Nevada assessed their current hardware with the Nevado School Speed Test to analyze the amount of bandwidth needed to support the SBAC. Currently, 83% of their schools are ready for the SBAC assessment, rating better than the national average of 64%. Metropolitan School District of Warren Township selected Chromebooks as their device because the full keyboard supports online testing as well as school work for students. It’s also important to test hardware with online assessments, as one school district realized they were running a test version that was not compatible with current hardware. Clark County School District piloted the test with one classroom and one content area at each school.

Communication is a key component in making the shift into online assessments and instruction. Clark County School District provided informational meetings and materials to their parents about online eLearning modules and instructional shifts. They supported teachers by providing training online, educational guides, face to face professional development. Keeping the lines of communication open and being proactive has helped districts address the community’s concerns and keep teachers calm.

The educational landscape is constantly changing as school districts are prepare for a technological and instructional shift. A strategic plan with all partners involved can help school districts be successful in getting students ready for the demands of digital learning.

Source for recommendations list:
Raising the Bar Becoming Assessment Ready Executive Summary, produced by CoSN, Education Networks of America, and e-Learning Institute

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