This month I’ve been in conversation with an outstanding school superintendent preparing his district for PARCC assessments. As many understand, PARCC (and its counterpart Smarter Balanced), requires districts prepare their schools with technology sufficient for their student to take what will be entirely online, computer based high stakes tests.
“Of course,” he explained to me, “we need to become PARCC-ready. But that is just the tip of the iceberg. If we are going to invest in these substantial, even enormous technology upgrades, it would be foolish not to use this new technology in ways beyond the new tests.
“PARCC tech upgrades give us an opportunity to transform our schools to places of 21st century, student-centered– and this is an opportunity not be wasted.”
In addition, he added, preparing students for success on PARCC is not just a matter of ensuring the tech is there for them to take the test– it needs to be there and used in ways in which students develop the comfort and confidence.
This is a tremendous opportunity, and we can only hope that every superintendent recognizes as well as this one has the chance being presented to leverage an externally imposed new test and new test format– even when that new test perhaps is in and of itself unwelcome– to transform the equation of classroom learning toward 21st century, student-centered, technology in the hands of students programs.
This has been also recognized recently in a valuable new white paper from SETDA, State Educational Technology Directors Association, which I’ve embedded below.
The report has many important messages. First, districts must carefully focus and determine their current technology’s capacity for supporting the new tests.
While there are compelling advantages to a technology-‐based assessment system as compared to current paper-‐ and pencil-‐based approaches, schools and districts will need to validate their technology readiness for 2014-‐15.
Validation for technology readiness is important even for states and districts currently administering tests online, as these Common Core assessments are being designed to move beyond multiple-‐choice questions to technology-‐enhanced items to elicit the higher order knowledge, skills, and abilities of students.
An article last spring in THE, Technology Challenges and the Move to Online Assessments, also explored these issues.
The 2014-15 school year is a long way off, isn’t it? That depends on your perspective. If you are an eighth-grader, Friday night is a long way off, but if you are a technology leader in a school district or a state, the 2014-15 school year may be here all too soon.
Critically, the SETDA report insists that this PARCC/Smarter Balanced minimum specs, must not be the only factor to be considered when these enormous investments are made. (more…)