Latest Event Updates

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This site will provide information regarding the implementation of PARCC in Massachusetts schools. The site will highlight the experiences of students, teachers, administrators, technology professionals, and test developers as the PARCC assessments are introduced to schools in our state.

The information will also highlight the progress of two specific PARCC field tests happening in Burlington Public Schools and Revere Public Schools. Members of implementation teams from both districts along with students and teachers will provide details about their PARCC experiences.

Please visit the pages for educator, student, and technology questions. Discussions and comments are welcome during the PARCC trial. Each page has a comment/question box that will be monitored by members of the Massachusetts PARCC Trial groups.

Announcing: Mass PARCC Summit

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We are excited to announce a unique opportunity to learn from educators and technology practitioners who have experienced the PARCC online assessments first hand. Along with members of the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, these practitioners will be leading sessions, discussions, and hands-on demonstrations to help support Massachusetts’ schools implementing or considering online PARCC assessments.

The Massachusetts PARCC Summit will be a FREE operational boot camp with sessions for school administrators, technology directors, IT professionals, data managers, student information directors, curriculum directors, and teachers. The sessions will be led by members of the Burlington and Revere Public Schools who completed extensive field tests last year, as well as ESE staff who are experts in the PARCC online assessments.

Registration is now open for this FREE event. The event will be held at Marshall Simonds Middle School in Burlington, Massachusetts on December 4, 2014 from 8:00 am to 3:00 pm.

Eventbrite - Massachusetts PARCC Summit

The event schedule will be posted soon. Session topics will include:

- PARCC’s Effect on Your School
– Building Your Technology Infrastructure
– Scheduling and Staffing for Online Assessments
– Student Information and Data
– Devices: iPads, Chromebooks, MacOS, and PCs
– Proctor Caching
– Accommodations and Accessibility
– Pearson Access Updates

Considerations for Selecting PARCC

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A recent conference call hosted by the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education discussed the considerations for districts deciding to choose PARCC computer based testing for Spring 2015. The call and a detailed presentation are included in the video below.

Burlington and Revere PARCC Presentation

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The following presentation highlights some of the details about the Burlington Public Schools and Revere Public Schools PARCC Field Test.

Scheduling Test Sessions

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Creating the schedule of test sessions for the PARCC assessment requires planning and flexibility. Schools will certainly be affected by the test sessions being completed each day during the PARCC testing window. Massachusetts schools have had similar scheduling needs during MCAS testing days. School administrators realize that some parts of the day require more attention. For example, we obviously can’t remove lunch and recess from the school day to accommodate our testing schedules. Building a testing schedule that limits interupptions to instructional time is paramount.

Burlington Public Schools is testing almost 2200 students for the Performance Based Assessment and End of Year assessment. Our test sessions and schedule reflect our attempt to provide a look at testing on different devices – iPads, Chromebooks, and desktop computers. In future years, Burlington will likely test students using only their 1:1 iPad devices. This will require less testing days and cause less interruption to instructional time.

Please review our PBA and EOY schedules linked below to see how our sessions were scheduled for this year. We hope that other districts can learn from our scheduling and plan on test sessions accordingly depending on their number of students and devices. Our schedule provides a look at how testing can interrupt instructional time. This becomes a major factor when devices are limited – even more so when schools only have a computer lab as a testing option.

Burlington Public Schools PBA PARCC Schedule

Burlington Public Schools EOY PARCC Schedule


Choosing PARCC or MCAS for 2015

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As we move through the End of Year portion of the 2014 Spring Field Test, important details regarding next year’s options for testing have been provided to Massachusetts’ schools. Districts will have the choice to administer either PARCC or MCAS tests in ELA and Mathematics for students in grades 3–8 in spring 2015.

The Massachusetts DESE has released the following timeline for this decision:

Wednesday, May 14
District superintendents receive email with instructions
A pass code will be provided for registering the district’s choice through an online tool

Mid to late-May
Information sessions to assist in decision-making (see below)

May 14–June 30
District superintendents register early decision

12:00 p.m., Monday, June 30
Deadline for early decision submission

12:00 p.m., Wednesday, October 1
Deadline for decision – pending availability

Top 5 Revere PARCC Tech Takeaways

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Thank you to Jonathan Ferrara – IT Manager from Revere Public Schools – for this post Performance Based Assessment look at Revere’s Top 5 PARCC Takeaways.

After the completion of our field tests, we had a district PARCC debrief meeting. In this meeting the administrative and tech staff discussed their impressions of what we had experienced over the last few weeks. The thoughts, ideas and impressions of PARCC were flowing so we decided it would be best to document some of our takeaways from our experience with PARCC in both prep and practice.

1. Infrastructure is Essential

Districts without infrastructure will have a difficult time with this test. To clarify the word infrastructure as I mean it, it is the foundational layer of your IT environment to carry the data (bandwidth, wireless, switches). Districts can buy all of the computers, tablets and laptops they can afford, however not being able to reach the Internet over a robust infrastructure will create a bottleneck that will make testing difficult, if not impossible. So if your district hasn’t invested in infrastructure, consider doing so. You will need it for curricula beyond PARCC and it will only improve your district overall.

2. Preparation

Make sure your tech team keeps up on the changes to the PARCC software and hardware prerequisites. Just days before the test they released information about ‘disabling accelerators’ in Internet Explorer. Keeping current with the documentation allowed us to modify our configuration and be ready. The ability to centrally manage your environment when possible is essential to prepare. Determine what methods you may have in-house and research third party management if needed. It is impossible to visit every machine as changes to the testing environment are required.

3. Teachers and Students Rise to a Challenge

This item is not really a tech item, but it is something that became clear to me during the field test. The role of the teacher is constantly changing and moving from pen/paper to electronic testing methods is without question a hurdle for the greenest teacher to the seasoned veteran. Once the test began and we began to see the minor issues that popped up, the teachers sat with us to learn with us as we worked through each problem. They learned and adapted. By day 3 they were handling many of the common problems on their own allowing the tech staff to handle the new issues that manifested. As for students, I am learning that they are platform/OS agnostic. It doesn’t seem to really matter to them whether they use a PC, a laptop or tablet. I think this is especially true for the younger students. This method of testing seems to land squarely in their wheelhouse.

4. Communication is Key

The discussion amongst the teachers, administration and techs relating to PARCC was so frequent and, I hope, beneficial to all (It was to us in technology). As an IT person in the education space for 15-16 years, I have never had this level and frequency of dialogue on any other item with staff outside of IT. Understanding the test from the academic point of view truly helped us support the teachers and administration. I hope understanding the tech perspective helped them too.

5. Work with other Districts

Don’t go it alone. Work with a district that you have an existing relationship with or establish a new working relationship. Our relationship with Burlington has given us insight into different approaches in test management, testing hardware and a pool of varied and diverse expertise. A team approach is always more powerful.

Jon Ferrara
IT Manager
Revere Public Schools

Student Data Upload

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Thank you to Josh Murphy, Director of Student Information for Burlington Public Schools, for this update about the process of uploading student data for the PARCC Field Tests. Josh shares some important details and notes about what we have learned in Burlington about the process. 

Part 1: Student Data Upload

One major change that PARCC brings to school districts in Massachusetts is the need to provide student enrollment data in advance of state assessments.  This post addresses some notes, tips and tricks that Burlington has compiled after successfully uploading clean student data.  Before starting to work on the Student Data Upload, school and district data offices need to familiarize themselves with what the fields that are in the SDU and the role those fields will play.

PARCC Student Data Upload Resources

Getting started…

Since the Student Data Upload contains demographic, Special Education, ELL, test grouping and accommodation fields, it will be vital that SIS vendors develop exports that can prepare this document directly from an SIS.  While we can not speak for all vendors, an export was not ready for the PARCC Field Test in our SIS, Aspen.  We are confident that for future PARCC assessments Follett Software will have a proper export developed for Aspen SIS.

Preparing the Student Data Upload for Grade 3 – 8 in both Math and ELA and Grades 9 – 11 in ELA is not too difficult, because these assessments are based off of grade level.  Preparing Grades 9 – 11 Math is a bit more difficult, because these assessments are based off the subject the student is taking at the time of the PARCC Assessment.

In Massachusetts, the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education provided districts with an initial PARCC Student Data Upload file, which was pre populated with data based of the district’s October SIMS report.  This was hugely helpful, because many of the PARCC fields utilize different coding structures than the MA DESE SIMS report.  If districts had to develop the Student Data Upload file from scratch, there would be a good amount of manipulation necessary, even if the data existed in the SIS.

Step 1: Remove Exited Students

The MA DESE file is based off of October data, so we removed students in the file who had withdrawn from Burlington Public Schools.  To perform these actions accurately, we cross referenced an export of active students from our SIS.  To automate the process we utilized the VLOOKUP() function, which is available in all of the major spreadsheet applications.

Step 2: Split the Student Data File provided by the MA DESE into three separate files.  

The second step we took was to create three .csv files: Grades3to8, Grades9to11ELA and Grades9to11Math.  Next, we sorted the MA DESE SDU file by Grade Level and Subject Code.  Now that the document was sorted, it made it easier to split it up and copy / paste the pertinent rows into the three .csv files.

Step 3: Add new students to each Student Data File

Nothing to add here other than add your new students.

Step 4: Populate the Class Field

While it isn’t required, we strongly recommend populating the class column for all students.  It will make the creation of sessions in Pearson Access a piece of cake.  Populating the class field will be a daunting task if you to enter them one by one.  We used some spreadsheet magic to fill in the column automatically by connecting another spreadsheet using a VLOOKUP() function.

We tested by homeroom for Grades 3-8 Math and ELA, as well as for Grade 10 ELA.  So, we created class codes that were a combination of the school, homeroom and subject (i.e. BHS-123-ELA).

The high school math file offered a unique set of difficulties.  The MA DESE SDU actually had each high school student triplicated in the file. For example, John Doe was in once with an Algebra 1 code, once with a Geometry code and once with an Algebra 2 code.  So, prior to uploading the additional records needed to be stripped out.  We took an export from out SIS containing each student’s math section.  We whipped up a little more spreadsheet magic using the VLOOKUP() function and some clever sorting to group the records we did not need.  We used the school with the course and section number as the class code for our high school math students (i.e. BHS-221.002)

Step 5: Verify

This is the last step before actually uploading your file.  Now is the time to share parts of your file with other district departments so they can verify class assignments, special education coding and accommodations.  Once your various departments have a chance to make adjustments to the files, you can upload the three separate files to the Pearson Access Site.

What we learned…

Our biggest takeaway from this process is that each district will need someone with a deep understanding of spreadsheet functions and spreadsheet manipulation to avoid the daunting task of manual data entry.  In Burlington, the preparation of the Student Data Upload was handled by the Student Information Office.  This office is responsible for developing and submitting MA DESE SIMS, EPIMS and SCS reports, so we are very comfortable with manipulating data files.  However, the added responsibility is a drastic change, as this office had little to no involvement in MCAS.  In order to devote time to PARCC preparation some sacrifices had to be made and some projects that were actively being worked on had to be put on the back burner.