A year from now, districts around the country will make final preparations for the start of the 2014–2015 school year. For most of them, those preparations will include ensuring that their networks are equipped to handle the new online student assessments that align with the Common Core State Standards. Training staff to administer those tests, as well as amassing enough computers for students to complete them, also are high priorities.
Achieve and the U.S. Education Delivery Institute, two nonprofit organizations dedicated to improving education at both the school and state levels, have developed a comprehensive workbook that maps out clear action steps for state and district leaders to adapt as they implement the standards in their schools. The publication, available at achieve.org/ImplementingCommonCore, includes questions to ask, hands-on exercises for curricular and technology teams to complete together, and examples of state-developed programs from which all educators can learn.
Meanwhile, the two consortia designing online student assessments that align with Common Core have developed guidance of their own on the minimum technology requirements that states must achieve to effectively support online testing:
- The Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) offers both minimum and recommended technical specifications for desktop, notebook and netbook computers, thin clients and tablets, as well as bandwidth and security recommendations and requirements, at parcconline.org/technology.
- The Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium offers strategy framework and system requirement specifications, a network bandwidth checker, and a technology readiness calculator at smarterbalanced.org/technology.
Beyond the Specs
For IT professionals in states that have adopted Common Core, ensuring that their schools are technologically equipped to meet the requirements is a high — if not the highest — priority.
New CDW•G research confirms that Common Core preparations are a top-of-mind concern. In fact, 83 percent of the nearly 300 public school district IT professionals surveyed cited Common Core as one of their top three IT priorities; 29 percent called it their top priority.
92% The percentage of districts planning to test all students at once that call Common Core a top IT priority
SOURCE: CDW•G's Common Core Tech (2013)
The spring 2013 survey also examined what IT pros think about Common Core and the challenges and opportunities the new framework presents.
Notably, more than three-fourths of respondents believe that Common Core will have a positive impact on their district. Among that group, 81 percent cited on-demand student data analysis as an anticipated benefit. They also named new (79 percent) and improved (78 percent) classroom technologies as positive effects.
But there are concerns — among them, lack of budget (76 percent) and lack of IT staff (69 percent) to support increased technology needs. Other concerns include whether the technology is in place to support online assessments (62 percent), whether classroom technologies are in place to facilitate instruction (60 percent), and whether the existing IT infrastructure (55 percent) and wireless access (55 percent) are strong enough and reliable enough, respectively, to handle the demands Common Core will place on them.
Despite the proliferation of bring-your-own-device and one-to-one programs in schools, three in four districts plan to use computer labs for online testing. The majority of them plan to test students in shifts, with just 20 percent planning to test students all at once.
For a closer look at the survey findings, as well as recommendations on how to proceed in the months ahead, visit CDWG.com/CommonCoreTech.