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

Hindsight being 20/20, Bergacs says the next wave of PARCC testing will probably find North Hunterdon HS using a different approach to the testing windows themselves. Unlike New Jersey’s High School Proficiency Assessment (HSPA), which requires testing take place on specific days, PARCC allows for multiple test sessions throughout the day. “We could do an AM session and a PM session and rotate students through,” says Bergacs, “so that it doesn’t impact as much class time.”

To schools and districts that struggled with their own PARCC challenges in March, Bergacs says it’s important to try everything out and test as much as you can before the actual examination period. “Be as prepared as possible for the technical issues that arise,” he says, “and don’t wait until day one to find out what happens.”

Heading off the Challenges
With more than 40,000 students spread throughout 55 buildings, Aurora Public Schools in Aurora, CO, was able to administer PARCC tests to all of its students within the allotted test window and with the devices that it owns. “For us, that is one indicator of success,” says Lisa Escarcega, chief accountability and research officer.

She says the district did have to deal with some mis-administrations (i.e., tests that were not given in a standardized format according to the stated methods in the procedure manual and are therefore invalid), but notes that those issues were not related to technology. “They had more to do with the rollout of the assessment package itself,” says Escarcega. “The accommodations manual that we used for training came in very late and wasn’t clear in a few areas. Of course, this is not atypical for a first-time administration.”

Working with Chief Information Officer Steve Clagg, Escarcega and her team dedicated much time and effort to the district’s assessment administration process. “Our IT staff came off other projects to have a presence here at the schools for the first couple of days,” she says. “That really limited the number of technology glitches that we might have encountered.” By the second week of testing, Escarcega says the district was experiencing very few—if any—issues with the testing process.

Going forward, Escarcega says she’d like to see a joint effort evolve on the part of the schools and districts that are involved with PARCC. By sharing best practices around top strategies for high school versus middle school, an optimal number of devices for a certain student population, and other key points, she feels districts could be more prepared for the next go-round. “Talking together about the best practices would be extremely useful.”

Bridget McCrea is a contributing writer for eSchool News.

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