Injecting Tech Into Assessment

As we all well know, last year the U.S. Department of Education awarded $350 million to develop new assessments to go with our Common Core State Standards.  Those assessment consortia — the Partnership for the Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) and SMARTER Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) — have been working to start developing the tests that measure the achievement of the student performance against the new common standards.

Since the beginning of the consortia effort, questions have been raised.  Recently, many have asked about the progress of the consortia, wondering if they will be able to deliver test to states for implementation in 2014.  But queries about technology have existed before the feds even cut the checks, with initial hypotheses (since proven incorrect) saying that PARCC wasn’t even interested in the adoption of new technologies in its assessment model.
To help focus on the issues of technology and CCSS assessment, the State Educational Technology Directors Association (SETDA) recently released Technology Requirements for Large-Scale Computer-Based and Online Assessment: Current Status and Issues, a discussion draft report currently available on www.assess4ed.net, a new online community supported by the U.S. Department of Education to explore RttT assessment issues.  
Among the issues posed by SETDA in the discussion draft:
* Striking the right balance in specifying technology requirements, while recognizing the heterogeneity of the technology in use in schools today and tomorrow;
* The specifications for test administration – including especially the length of the testing window – may have the single greatest impact on school technology readiness for computer-based and online assessment;
* Coordinating technology requirements, management, and related costs for assessment with other educational technology investments;
* Employing IT industry best practices to extract cost-savings via the shift to computer-based and online assessment;
* Creating processes and plans to both take advantage of future technology innovations and to take out of service obsolete technology;
* Architecting a system that can accommodate the trend away from seat time requirements and toward increasing online and blended (part-online, part face-to-face settings) enrollments;
* Striking and maintaining the right balance between comparability and validity in implementing next generation assessment systems;
* Providing meaningful opportunities for students and teachers to become comfortable with the assessment technology prior to implementation; and
* Coordinating work with state and district technology leadership.
Without question, Eduflack applauds SETDA for asking the right questions and pointing to the right issues when it comes to technology and the next generation of student assessments.  And the report is particularly useful in providing a series of charts and graphs on both CCSS and the states themselves.
As this Technology Requirements was issued as a draft for review and comment, I just can’t miss the opportunity to provide two comments (additions really) for the authors to consider:
* In addition to providing meaningful opportunities for students and teachers to become comfortable with the assessment technology, there is a real opportunity to position the ed tech standards (NETS) established by the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) as a key component for linking technology, assessment, instruction, and learning. 
* While online assessments are important, they really only get us half of the way to our destination.  If we are serious about deploying meaningful tests that will serve our states and districts for decades to come, we must look at exams that are both online and adaptive.  Adaptive testing technologies are advancing rapidly.  Some states, particularly those in SBAC are already using online adaptive technologies to build a better testing mousetrap.  We need to learn from those states, constructing for the future of testing, not for its past.
Now is the time to speak up folks.  SETDA has put a valuable and intriguing marker down on the the discussion of technology and assessment.  Contribute to the discussion, both through the draft report and through www.assess4ed.net.  These are important discussions.  Speak now or forever hold your peace.

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