The school also saved on paper, copier, printer (plus toner/maintenance), file folders, and writing instruments. “And since paper didn’t need to be stored, filed, and distributed,” Ryan says, “the number of clerical staff was significantly reduced.”

Cross-functional teamwork
With online assessments being just one component of a more comprehensive school transformation, Ryan says schools will not be successful with their online assessments if significant changes in the day-to-day classroom haven’t occurred.

“Repositioning resources can only occur with this more comprehensive change model,” he cautions. “If the focus is primarily on March and April for the online assessment, then kids won’t do well and the [initiative] will be very expensive.”

Online assessment initiatives also shouldn’t be tasked to single departments or individuals. A better move, says Ryan, is to establish cross-functional teams that can assess districts as a whole and then make sweeping decisions regarding resource prioritization. Involve executive leaders, IT departments, and curriculum/assessment developers in the decision-making process, he suggests.

This cross-functional approach is crucial, because all the networks and devices in the world can’t compensate for poor teacher training (on how to use the devices for assessments, for example) or other oversights that might impede a timely online assessment rollout.

School district leaders have voiced concerns about having enough manpower to support online assessment, and spreading duties across several departments might help ease that burden.

“Don’t just dump the challenge on IT and expect that department to figure it out and react accordingly,” he warns. “The initiative has to be planned strategically and cohesively right from the beginning.”

(Next page: What not to focus on during the transition)