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Assessments: Are K-12 Schools Ready? Part IV

Friday, March 29, 2013 -- Shane Dennison

Overall Transition Considerations

Districts and schools not only need to begin planning and preparing for the PARCC and Smarter Balanced assessments coming in the fall of 2014, but they need to begin taking action on those plans. A key component of any plan surrounding these upcoming online assessments is communication. Weekly or monthly communications amongst all stakeholders should be started from within districts. For example, infrastructure updates in regard to the when’s, where’s, and how’s need to be elaborated to the teachers, lab managers, and IT support staff. Collaboration should be scheduled amongst district administrators from others states that have chosen to adopt the same online assessment as you have (PARCC or Smarter Balanced) to share meaningful failures and successes achieved thus far as transitions on various timelines are met.

This spring over one million students are expected to take part in a pilot test administration through PARCC or Smarter Balanced. Districts that are not part of the pilot should reach out to districts who have participated to discuss issues, lessons learned, etc.  The districts that have been part of the pilot this spring should compare notes with other volunteer districts in attempts to try and help each other troubleshoot issues that could be resolved before fall of 2014.

An intra-district website page that gives PARCC, Smarter Balanced, and Common Core updates and tips would be a good idea. We all know that keeping the teachers informed and kept up to speed of transitional plans and timelines is often the best way to better ensure eventual student adaptation to the coming changes. The establishment of teacher in-service training (both mandatory and volunteer) on PARCC and Smarter Balanced assessments and how they revolve around Common Core expectations could be offered monthly over the next 12 months. Confirm that your instruction specialists are working together with your assessment specialists at the district level. This cohesion between Common Core instruction and PARCC and Smarter Balanced high-stakes assessments could very well end up being passed down to the district’s teachers (especially the newer teachers who need as much guidance as possible).

Expect the need for ongoing needs analysis; whether it is technology infrastructure needs, professional development needs, vendor choice or participation needs. Your long-term plan should include an intermittent needs analysis strategy which you will need to conduct at certain milestones.  For example, perform a needs analysis after the first mandatory administration of the online tests {earlier if you are one of the pilot schools/districts}, just after the first mandated PARCC or Smarter Balanced administration in the fall of 2014, as new technology innovations come about over next 18 months, vendor contracts end and new contracts need made, etc.). Within your ongoing needs analysis plan, seek help in analyzing new PARCC and Smarter Balanced report data that will be available in ways that state exams never offered teachers in the past. Also, plan on workshops and professional development throughout the school year to address the provided data and provide feedback to the teachers working with the students each day.

Above all, as these coming months of change come upon us, remember to address issues, but to also celebrate your successes along the way!

Assessments: Are K-12 Schools Ready? Part I

Assessments: Are K-12 Schools Ready? Part II

 Assessments: Are K-12 Schools Ready? Part III