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.
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.
Revere Public Schools