Even in today’s tech-heavy environment, before moving to online assessments, leadership needs to ask: Should we? According to Glenn Robbins, superintendent of Tabernacle Township (NJ) School District, and Dr. Donna Wright, director of schools, Wilson County (TN) Schools, too often the focus is on why everyone else is doing it or the idea that everything needs to be done on a computer. During their presentation, “Online Assessment: An Evolving Landscape and New Opportunities,” they discussed the lessons they learned when they made the transition and what they would change if they could.
Getting started with online assessments
First, Robbins proposed several key questions leaders should ask before even considering online assessments.
- What is the experience we’re trying to create?
- What is our curriculum?
- Where are we going with the curriculum?
- What are we using for assessment right now, why are we using it, and how could it improve?
In other words, leaders need to frame the potential value of online assessments before they discuss technology in the larger context of the curriculum. Wright added that leaders also need to think about how online assessments can impact a school’s culture and change teaching and learning. Most important, the new assessments must fit into the district’s strategic plan—both the overall goals for the school and the financial commitments.
Next, Wright and Robbins shared their perspective on the elements in CoSN’s Nine Key Recommendations for Leveraging Online Assessment Capability and Capacity and how that impacted their transition.
1. Create and sustain a cross-functional strategic planning team: Both Wright and Robbins said their schools had a lot of silos (not just edtech and instruction) that needed to come together and understand how their specific skill sets are necessary to the process. In addition, leaders need to bring parents in early during these conversations. Without support from parents, especially in this era of opting out of testing, the initiative will face significant obstacles.
2. Ensure ongoing funding: It’s not just that tech programs aren’t one and done, but that administrators can’t predict some of the future costs. Again, Wright emphasized changing the way leaders think about their funding and building line items for accountability and assessment into the budget.
3. Embed technology in instructional practice: If students are going to be tested with tech, then they need to be learning that way on a regular basis. This means, said Robbins, that principals and superintendents need to understand the realities of tech access at home for their students. Do they have reliable wi-fi? Do they have a device they can use at home? If not, how can the school help? Finally, school leaders need to model tech use to their teachers and show that the administration is all in on using tech for education.