8 key recommendations for Common Core online assessments

5. Build out a robust infrastructure

  • Meet SETDA recommendations for bandwidth no later than the start of the 2014 school year
  • Consider partnering with a managed network services provider to provide overall IaaS solutions as well as QoS strategies for the district
  • Use tools to manage and prioritize existing bandwidth for high priority data traffic
  • If implementing the PARCC assessments and bandwidth is a constraint, explore Proctor Caching
  • Assure network density is adequate across the system to handle the wireless load
  • Plan for increased ongoing technical support to meet increased demands on infrastructure and devices
  • Implement strategic scheduling to reduce the number of students tested at one time when adequate bandwidth is not available
  • Participate in field tests to determine network capacity real-time to know what to expect on actual test day(s)

6. Select devices meeting instructional needs and assessments consortia requirements

  • Intentionally select the appropriate device, based on student academic success, realizing that desktops, tablets, laptops, Chromebooks and netbooks have different strengths and weaknesses and interact differently with online resources
  • Although many devices may meet minimum standards, select devices that give students the best opportunity for success
  • Avoid smaller screen size, which makes it difficult for students in online assessments and requires more back and forth scrolling, taking time and being distracting for students
  • Avoid smaller keyboards that make data entry more difficult
  • Consider age appropriate devices, as one district-wide device may not be appropriate for all grade levels
  • Move from lab-based assessments to fully integrated classrooms, as it is important for students to test in the same environment in which they are taught
  • Protect expensive digital investments with quality maintenance and support programs; digital tools, content and systems are growing exponentially, yet technical support has remained the same or decreased

7. Communicate—a lot

  • Be intentional about your communication plan to school sites and site-based educators as well as other stakeholders, such as parents and the community, so they know what to expect
  • Communicate with your infrastructure service provider(s)
  • Communicate with your testing provider
  • Create opportunities for parents and community members to take practice questions to increase awareness of the test rigor
  • Provide town hall meetings, parent nights or sample CCSS challenge questions on broadcast news and in the newspaper to raise awareness

8. Pay attention to logistics

  • Work out detailed scheduling for assessments well in advance
  • Make sure you have ample devices and peripherals that meet minimum or recommended required specifications, including back-up equipment
  • Make sure you have developmentally appropriate devices meeting the consortia guidelines
  • Test wireless density capacity to be sure there are enough access points to handle the load
  • Make sure devices are fully charged and will last for the duration of the test
  • Make sure power adapters, power cords and power are available
  • Train testing proctors on the devices being used
  • Participate in field tests and pilots and take every opportunity to practice with new testing environments

The consortia’s toolkit goes into much more detail, not only in the recommendations for implementation of online assessments, but with district case studies, frequently asked questions by school districts and responses from the two Common Core consortia (PARCC and Smarter Balanced) For the toolkit’s full list of resources, visit the toolkit’s homepage.

The transition to Common Core online assessments “will require a robust infrastructure, significant [PD], attention to devices and device management and a different way of thinking about assessments and the tools that collect information as well as integration of several assessment and data systems both locally and nationally to be successful,” notes the report.

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