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Online Community To Prepare Schools for New Assessments Coming in 2014

In an effort to help ease the transition to new technology-driven assessments planned for nationwide implementation in 2014, the State Educational Technology Directors Association (SETDA) has launched, a new online resource and community for state and district education leaders. is a community of practice site designed to help prepare leaders for the shift to assessments that are being developed under a United States Department of Education program and that are targeted for delivery beginning in the 2014-2015 school year.

Last year two consortia were awarded $330 million in grants under the Race to the Top Assessment Program to develop a new generation of comprehensive computer-delivered assessment systems built around Common Core State Standards. The consortia included the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) and the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC).

PARCC, a coalition of 24 states and administrative divisions, is focused on an approach designed to eliminate end of term tests with assessments administered throughout the year and averaged for a final score. The stated purpose of the approach is to lessen the weight of any one individual test while, at the same time, theoretically providing formative data for teachers and students to use following each interim test. PARCC's proposed methods will "test students' ability to read complex text, complete research projects, excel at classroom speaking and listening assignments, and work with digital media," according to information released by the U.S. Department of Education.

Meanwhile, SBAC, a coalition of 30 states, will take an approach involving the use of "computer adaptive technology that will ask students tailored questions based on their previous answers." The approach will not only not eliminate the end of term high-stakes testing model, but it will add several interim tests that will be "used to inform students, parents, and teachers about whether students are on track" to perform up to expectations on the final test.

As part of the development process, the organizations enlisted SETDA to draft a set of requirements for implementing large-scale online summative assessments, including software, bandwidth, hardware requirements, and other specifications. A paper detailing those requirements ("Technology Requirements for Large-Scale Computer-Based and Online Assessment: Current Status and Issues") is available for review and public comment on the site now.

"As states and districts begin to make purchasing decisions for technology that will still be in classrooms when the next generation assessments emerge, this paper provides baseline information as well as a first step in considering key issues surrounding large-scale online assessment," said Douglas Levin, executive director of SETDA, in a statement released this week. "We will continue to foster discussion of online assessment in and our members stand ready to work with their colleagues at both the state and district levels to ensure a smooth and effective implementation of technology-based assessment." is part of the Connected Online Communities of Practice program, a three-year initiative sponsored by the U.S. Department of Education and implemented by various education organizations, including SETDA and five others.

Additional details, including state technology breakdowns and other resources, can be found on

About the Author

David Nagel is the former editorial director of 1105 Media's Education Group and editor-in-chief of THE Journal, STEAM Universe, and Spaces4Learning. A 30-year publishing veteran, Nagel has led or contributed to dozens of technology, art, marketing, media, and business publications.

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