21 Months (and Counting) to Online Assessments

By Tom Vander Ark and Carri Schneider 
2012 is quickly drawing to a close. When the calendar page flips to 2013 in just a couple of weeks, we suspect that the 2014 implementation of the next generation of online assessments is suddenly going to feel much closer. That realization is sure to provoke a wave of high blood pressure fanning out across the land. But – have no fear – the new DLN Smart Series white paper is here!
We partnered with Digital Learning Now! and the Foundation for Excellence in Educationto create the DLN Smart Series to help state and district leaders tackle the implementation issues at the intersection of Common Core and digital learning. This paper is the third in the series (following papers onfunding student access and reimagining student records) to offer specific advice to those making the shift.
The “Getting Ready for Online Assessment” paper is coupled with a detailed “Countdown to 2014” timeline that provides discrete action steps toward implementation over the next 21 months.
However, the paper challenges state and local leaders to move beyond compliance for test readiness. Because it really matters to us, we situate the move to online assessments in the broader framework of personalized, digital learning. Because we believe you can’t separate assessment from instruction, we use the release of minimum technology guidelines from Smarter Balanced and PARCC to build the case for making these broader instructional shifts.
The paper concludes with recommendations to states, districts, and the state testing consortia. The authors offer states and districts the following advice to help them seize the opportunities for better teaching and learning that the shift to online assessment creates.

  1. Match teaching and testing environments
  2. Shift to digital instructional materials
  3. Boost student access to technology
  4. Build a plan for the shift
  5. Support adoption of blended models
  6. Boost broadband
  7. Invest in teaching training
  8. Learn from other states
  9. Use sample test items in class; and
  10. Use Core-aligned adaptive assessment.

Recommendations to PARRC, Smarter Balanced, and related parties are provided to help the consortia build continued momentum and generate on-going awareness of the instructional shifts that the assessments necessitate.
The consortia are advised to:

  1. Encourage upgrades
  2. Plan versions
  3. Redefine comparability
  4. Go “on demand”
  5. Lean forward
  6. Don’t phase in; and
  7. Support competency-based learning.

The 21-month timeline provides an appropriate pivot point for the shift to personalized, digital learning. The combination of digital content and digital assessment provides more than sufficient rationale (benefits and savings) to support an overall plan to increase student access to technology.
“Getting Ready for Online Assessment” was co-written by John Bailey, Executive Director of DLN, Tom Vander Ark, Executive Editor of Getting Smart, and Carri Schneider, Director of Policy and Research of Getting Smart. 
Download the full paper, executive summary, and infographic and learn more athttp://digitallearningnow.com/dln-smart-series/ and Twitter hashtag #SmartSeries.
This blog first appeared on EdWeek.

Getting Smart Staff

The Getting Smart Staff believes in learning out loud and always being an advocate for things that we are excited about. As a result, we write a lot. Do you have a story we should cover? Email [email protected]

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