Jun 24 2014

Common Core: Easing the Transition to Electronic Assessments

Are district leaders prepared for the leap to computerized testing?

With the adoption of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS), many district leaders are planning to make the transition to electronically based standardized tests.

However, they are beginning to see the overwhelming complexity that lies at the heart of this colossal shift in testing protocols. Technology requirements and recommendations for each consortium have become increasingly difficult to keep track of, and when some states belong to multiple consortia, the requirements only get more complex. Where do district leaders find the correct information regarding specific technological devices needed for their students to properly and efficiently take their assessments?

The State Educational Technology Directors Association (SETDA) has an answer to that question.

In early May, SETDA launched the Guide to Technology Requirements, a website that consolidates the technological requirements school districts must uphold, listed by each consortium. It took roughly six months to build the site, which works in conjunction with a consortium of multistate agencies.

SETDA Guides the Way

The primary goal of this new site, according to SETDA, is to provide a “one-stop resource to help school districts identify technology requirements for online assessments as well as provide considerations for instruction, learning, and school operations.”

The site features a customizable chart that allows each district to enter their state and discover the consortia in which their state participates. The chart will then update with personalized information, including OS requirements for Linux, Mac, Windows and Chrome; necessary peripherals and minimum networking speeds.

While the primary objective of the site is to assist district leaders in their transition, that is only a fraction of the scope the website aims to cover. Brandt Redd, the chief technology officer of Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium, says that by pushing schools “to acquire this technology, we are seeing districts use these devices in a smarter way, thus promoting education through technology.”

Geoff Fletcher, the deputy executive director for SETDA, agrees with Redd, saying the site “is helping to change some of the instruction used in the classroom” and is “changing the way that students are learning.”

According to Fletcher, the shift was only a matter of time because “everybody is using technology in all facets of the education enterprise.”

Costs a Concern

Similar to standardized state testing prior to Common Core, CCSS is requiring districts to administer their assessments electronically. The move to this electronic standard is an attempt at providing a better assessment experience for students while simultaneously eliminating the headaches associated with traditional paper-based testing.

Although the shift does reduce the long-term costs associated with creating, printing and distributing the assessments, many districts and individuals have concerns about the initial overhead costs of purchasing high quantities of devices in a short period of time.

“That implies that people are buying the technology [exclusively] for the assessments,” Fletcher says. “But I think that assumption, in an ideal world, is a faulty assumption.”

With all of this information in one location, everything that district leaders need for a smooth transition to the new, electronic standard is at their fingertips.


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