A top priority for today's district CIOs and other IT leaders is ensuring that their schools are ready to administer online assessments when they become available in the 2014–2015 school year. Among other things, they're checking district bandwidth to ensure it's sufficient to carry traffic associated with assessments, other school business and the instructional needs of students and teachers, as well as monitoring the balance of their internal networks. They're also counting available devices to ensure that everything satisfies the requirements of the testing consortia that are providing the exams for students.
How else have districts and states prepared for this type of widespread change? Implementing Online Assessments: Pathways to Success, an online, interactive tool developed by the State Educational Technology Directors Association (SETDA), attempts to answer these questions.
The website takes an in-depth look at how four states — Delaware, Idaho, North Carolina and Virginia — successfully implemented online assessments. Each case study describes the state's history with online assessments, the evolution of their infrastructure, and their approach to training and communication with districts, and provides an in-depth look at what it took for one district to implement the assessments.
A compelling component of the Implementing Online Assessments tool is its database of downloadable resources, which can be filtered five ways: by topic area, resource type, state, target audience and time frame.
Of particular interest are the topic areas — communicating, infrastructure, needs, piloting and preparing — which state and district leaders indicated were crucial to their success. The resource types include checklists, meeting agendas with Microsoft PowerPoint presentations, reference materials, sample communications and technical specifications. So, for example, a chief technology officer could look for information regarding infrastructure and tech specifications in Delaware and North Carolina and find a robust set of resources. A curriculum or assessment specialist, meanwhile, could search the communicating and preparing topic areas for meeting agendas, slides and sample communications from Idaho and Virginia.
Early response to the site has been overwhelmingly positive among a variety of audiences. Curriculum and assessment specialists at a recent Council of Chief State School Officers meeting praised the tool, as did some state readiness coordinators during a recent webinar.
As word about the site spreads from the state to the district level, we anticipate opportunities to augment and improve the site. It is yours to use — take advantage of it.
Ready or Not
The State Educational Technology Directors Association has developed a number of resources to assist states and districts as they prepare to implement online assessments (available at setda.org/web/guest/assessment).
One especially valuable resource is a paper released Dec. 4, 2012 — the same day that the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium issued the initial minimum and recommended technology specifications for its online assessments. The paper stresses that technology requirements for assessment must be taken in the broader context of the full range of technology issues schools are facing today. District leaders should look at technology needs for the long term, explicitly considering the technology needs to meet curricular, instructional, assessment, professional development and school operational goals. For more information, download SETDA's paper.