The good, the bad, and the ugly of today’s online testing

In some cases, high school students took up to three hours to log in, with just 10 percent of pupils actually able to get logged in within a few minutes or less. “By the two hour mark on the first day, about half of our students were logged in and doing their tests.”

The issues that Sheridan SD was grappling with were so big that Pearson, the official testing vendor, sent out a tech support professional to help—a move that Clough is thankful for. “I definitely give them credit for that,” he says, “along with my own tech team, which basically had to touch every computer in the district twice the following morning, before students were ready to test.” He says frustrations were especially high because the district’s IT team did a run-through of the system on the Friday before testing with zero problems. “By Monday morning, the kids couldn’t log in.”

With more PARCC testing in Sheridan SD’s future, Clough says the district will be assessing its computer firewalls and determining (with the help of its security system provider) exactly what needs to be done to mitigate the problems that surfaced. “We also need a backup plan for when students aren’t able to log on quickly,” says Clough, “and possibly a bigger investment in computers in order to accommodate more students and the delicate PARCC testing schedule.”

Do Your Homework in Advance
PARCC testing was a mixed bag at North Hunterdon High School in Annandale, N.J., where about 1,750 students were tested over a two week period that was extended due to weather delays and closures. Principal Richard Bergacs says the first day of testing was “a little hectic” as students and teachers adapted to the new procedures and processes. A few issues with the school’s WI-FI and bandwidth also came into play early on, he says, but were cleared up fairly quickly. “Once we fixed the wireless issues, the teachers and students felt more comfortable,” says Bergacs.

To ensure the smoothest possible PARCC testing experience, Bergacs says the school strategically positioned six IT support personnel in specific “zones” on campus. When an issue or question arose, teachers were able to get them solved quickly. Bergacs says that support structure was particularly useful on day one of testing. By week two, he says “the IT support pros were just sitting out in the hallways, not doing much.”

Next page: Test prep pays off


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