Ray Eernisse, chief information officer for Francis Howell R-III School District in Missouri, said he was worried about the need to prepare students with the skills they’ll need to take an online exam—such as the ability to find information from internet search engines and evaluate its credibility—in such a short amount of time.
The online assessments go beyond the multiple choice or short-answer responses that students are used to seeing, asking them to execute more complex tasks that require skills such as problem solving, critical thinking, and even information literacy.
“The last thing we need is a drop in scores” that could result from not having enough time to prepare students for the rigor of the exams, Eernisse said.
Panelists agreed that school district leaders should prepare their stakeholders for the possibility that test scores might decline in the first year of online Common Core testing—so they’re not besieged with questions if this happens.
In terms of infrastructure, PARCC recommends that school networks supply at least 100 kilobits per second of bandwidth per student to accommodate online testing. Initial polling suggests that fewer than 10 percent of districts now meet this standard.
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Tips for making the move to online assessments
Williamson concluded the session with some advice for ed-tech leaders:
• Create a generic login for online testing, and clear the internet cache for this login before testing begins. Also, set up this login to block internet pop-ups; in one test, a Google pop-up supplied the answer to a test question, she said.
• Make sure you train test proctors thoroughly. Proctors should know where students are supposed to log in, so they can help with any technical issues that might arise as students try to access the test.
• Know your area—and if possible, schedule online testing to avoid periods of heavy internet traffic.
Williamson explained that her district, which is located in a haven for college football, has made a point to avoid online testing around signing day, when high school recruits must declare the college they’ll attend.
“The whole Southeast is on the internet that day,” she said, looking for news of which recruits their favorite teams have signed.
Follow eSchool News Editor in Chief Dennis Pierce on Twitter at @eSN_Dennis.