3 approaches to online assessments

“The field test of the new assessment system will help districts find out where they need to tune up their programs to be fully prepared for implementation.” Gordon said.

Ensuring device availability

Knox County Schools is making progress on upgrading its entire infrastructure to be ready for new online assessments that begin in the next school year.

Gail Byard, the district’s chief technology officer, told members of the school board during a recent midmonth meeting that they have completed wiring 52 schools and will complete the remaining 27 schools by the end of the summer.

“Right now we are in the process of assessing each site individually,” she said. “We have technicians going out to each building and they are tagging those machines that are ready for the PARCC assessments, and by ready for PARCC that means they meet the specifications we use for the assessment.”

PARCC will move current TCAP and EOC state testing in math and English to an online format and bring them in line with Common Core standards.

Byard said the recommendation from PARCC is for school systems to have a device — a laptop, iPad, or computer — for each student in their largest grade level, so they have been taking enrollments from each school and estimating the number of devices they will need.

According to her presentation, Byard said if the district had to give the assessments today, the worst case scenario would be that they need 8,496 more devices across all school levels, while the best scenario — which includes iPads that would need an external keyboard and the use of staff devices — would be about 5,000 additional devices.

“Somewhere in the middle of those two, the worse-case and the best-case scenario, is going to the real truth, which is how many devices we have on hand,” Byard said. “This is a little bit of a bleak picture, but it is getting better every day.

She anticipated the school system, in a best-case scenario, will need about $3.8 million to fund the technology initiative. A worst-case scenario would costs the district about $6.4 million.

School board members also heard an update from three of the district’s school technology challenge winners. Last year, the district held an internal competition that selected schools to begin their own 1-to-1 technology effort — or one technology device for each student and teacher.

As part of the initiative, the school system distributed 6,449 MacBooks and 759 iPads at the winning schools.

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