This month, select schools in states that have adopted the Common Core State Standards are field testing the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers– and Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium–developed online assessments that will replace traditional pencil-and-paper “bubble” tests in the 2014–2015 school year.
By the end of June, participants and proponents will have a better sense of what remains to be done to ready both the IT infrastructure and school staff for the significant operational and instructional shifts that such assessments require.
Ten months ago, CDW•G surveyed 300 K–12 IT professionals to understand how well prepared they are to meet the technology requirements of Common Core, how districts are prioritizing Common Core and the technology challenges they face. The resulting report, Common Core Tech, revealed several concerns — among them lack of budget (76 percent) and IT staff (69 percent), as well as concerns about having enough technology for online student assessments (62 percent) and for instruction (60 percent).
Such concerns haven’t abated with time, it seems. According to the Consortium for School Networking’s just-released K–12 IT Leadership Survey, fewer than 18 percent of school and district IT leaders are fully ready for the online assessments that will become mandatory in a matter of months. (For more results from CoSN’s all-encompassing research, conducted in partnership with MDR, visit cosn.org/ITsurvey2014.)
Assessment Help Is On the Way
To help educators and IT leaders still struggling in their assessment readiness preparations, CoSN, Education Networks of America and the eLearn Institute collaborated to assemble a toolkit of resources, announced during CoSN’s 2014 conference in Washington, D.C. The suite includes:
- an executive summary, which was first presented during CoSN’s “Raising the BAR: Becoming Assessment Ready” webinar on Feb. 11;
- a white paper;
- frequently asked questions;
- readiness recommendations and checklists;
- and case studies from Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools in Tennessee, Metropolitan School District of Warren Township in Indiana, and West Side School District No. 202 in Idaho.
In a breakout session on Thursday morning, Dr. Tom Ryan, the eLearn Institute’s CEO, and Lillian Kellogg, ENA’s vice president of client services, described Common Core as a “stake in the ground” opportunity for schools and districts “to build out the infrastructure necessary to support not only online assessment, but also classroom learning environments that will finally provide educators with the tools they need to meet the unique needs of children.”
Together, Ryan and Kellogg walked attendees through eight key recommendations that will help districts become assessment ready:
- Create a cross-functional strategic planning team.
- Secure funding sources for modern learning environments.
- Embed technology in instructional practice.
- Invest in robust professional development for teachers, administrators and technical staff.
- Build out a robust infrastructure.
- Select devices meeting instructional needs and assessment consortia requirements.
- Communicate — a lot.
- Pay attention to logistics.
These readiness recommendations also include tangible checklists that K–12 stakeholders can follow to ease the process and achieve desired outcomes.
“When you’re driving, you don’t have rules about your assessment; you don’t look at the speedometer just once a week,” Ryan explained. “You’re constantly monitoring your progress to make sure you’re within the speed limit.”
The field testing now underway nationwide is equally important, he continued. “The closer you can get to piloting the whole process,” he said, “the better off you’re going to be when the assessment actually happens next year.”
And don’t go it alone, Kellogg added. “Ask your vendors, ask your service providers how they can stand by you during this process.”
Learn more and download the aforementioned toolkit resources at cosn.org/raisingthebar.
For more coverage from CoSN's annual conference, check out our CoSN 2014 conference hub.