When prioritizing financial and human resources around online assessments, Ryan says it’s important for districts to understand that they’re not doing it simply for the sake of the assessment itself—but rather, as a way to delivery high-quality teaching in an effective and engaging learning environment. Adopting this mindset can help schools move forward with their efforts without feeling like they’re being forced to make radical changes in the name of assessment only.

Focus on teaching, not on testing
As states implement Common Core, Ryan advocates that school leaders identify the resources teachers need to modify instruction based on student progress. Take the use of formative, interim online assessments, for example. Going forward, the adoption of such test formats will require a mindset shift from “big event” annual tests to more frequent assessments throughout the school year.

When creating technical support systems for digital assessments, Ryan says districts should avoid the “build it and they will come” approach to classroom technology.

“It’s not about getting IT to build the infrastructure in hopes that it will resonate with the teachers and the students,” says Ryan. “Instruction has to be involved and must be focused on what’s going on in the classroom. All [stakeholders] really need to come together on this one and work with finance to prioritize and integrate a plan of action.”

And remember to focus not on the problem at hand (how to get ready for online assessments) but rather on how to deliver high-quality teaching and learning on a personalized, school-wide basis.

“If you’re trying to solve the online testing problem, then there’s a high likelihood that the effort will fail,” says Ryan. “However, if you focus on improving and enhancing the teacher’s ability to deliver high quality content, then you’re going to have a much more successful assessment strategy.”

Bridget McCrea is a contributing writer for eSchool News.