Over 500 educators and school technology professionals attended the Massachusetts PARCC Summit in Burlington on December 4. The event included a keynote from Commissioner Mitchell Chester and sessions designed to help prepare schools for implementing the digital PARCC assessments. Members of the Burlington, Revere, and Boston Public Schools presented about their experiences with the 2014 PARCC Field Tests. Several other sessions were presented by members of the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.
Several common themes were evident throughout the day. These are important factors to consider when planning for the digital PARCC assessments.
– Regardless of your plans for PARCC, districts must commit to making decisions about technology that focus on instructional goals first. This message was highlighted by presenters from Burlington and Revere. Unfortunately, it is clear that many districts are feeling pressure to prepare for online assessments and that pressure is guiding their decisions about technology purchasing. There is no perfect PARCC device. There is no perfect device for instructional use. Schools must consider many factors beyond PARCC when deciding what to purchase.
– PARCC implementation takes a team effort. Members of the Burlington and Revere teams discussed how collaboration and planning was key to the success of their field tests. The planning required significant time and flexibility on the part of IT departments, administrators, and teachers.
– Some school departments that were not involved in MCAS (or other standardized tests) may now be heavily involved in PARCC implementation. This includes student information departments and is most evident for technology teams. Technology staff will need to work collaboratively with educational staff in order to implement the assessments effectively. This again requires a team effort. It is clear that the implementation of PARCC in Burlington and Revere was a direct result of the partnership between technology and educational teams.
– Don’t prepare for PARCC in isolation. Seek the support of other districts. Collaborative efforts between school districts will help create more successful and less stressful implementations. School leaders should try to connect with others who are have already implemented a field test or those who are planning to in 2015. We work in isolation far too often in education. This isolation needs to break down in order to support the instructional growth of our schools and the implementation of PARCC.
Finally and perhaps most importantly – all of these common themes are actually best practices for anything related to creating the best educational environments in our schools. These are actions that should be in place all the time – not just during the implementation of PARCC.