My PARCC Reflection

As a member of the Burlington Public Schools Edtech Team, I spent last week helping to administer the PARCC online assessment. For those of you who aren’t familiar with PARCC, it is the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers. According to PARCC, the test is designed to determine if students are “on track in their learning” and will succeed after high school.  Students are tested in Mathematics and English Language Arts/Literacy . Test results will provide teachers with information to help them customize learning to meet student needs. The PARCC assessment is scheduled to be administered statewide in 2014-2015.

Dr. Eric Conti, Superintendent of Burlington Public Schools, stated on his blog that last week Burlington conducted roughly 3,500 testing sessions with more than 1,800 students in grades 3 through 7 and grades 9 and 10. Throughout the district, students took the exam on iPads, Chromebooks, MAC and PC desktop computers. Once the assessment is complete, Burlington will provide extensive feedback about all aspects of the test, including the technology used to administer it, to the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, PARCC, and Pearson. Our feedback, along with other schools in the state that are piloting the exam, will be helpful in improving the test before it launches statewide. The Burlington administration and members of the Edtech/IT team will be sharing our PARCC experience during a panel discussion at the New England 1:1 Summit on Saturday, April 12th.

As the Instructional Technology Specialist in the high school, I, along with Jose DeSousa, the Systems and Network Manager for Burlington Public Schools, was responsible for setting up four classrooms for the PARCC exam. We decided to get the rooms ready after school on Friday, March 21st.  Jose and I set-up two classrooms and equipped them with keyboards, headphones, and iPad stands. Each of the classrooms had a cart with 30 iPads which we ensured were plugged in, charging and ready to go with the PARCC TestNav app. The PC lab required us to enable Firefox as the browser and allow pop-ups from the PARCC website. The PC lab was configured to allow students to log into the PARCC site and immediately start the test. After the classrooms were set up with iPads and the PC lab was complete, I left Burlington for the day. Jose, along with Eric Calandriello, the newest member of the BPS IT staff, took care of setting up the MAC lab. When I left I felt confident that we, and by we I mean the entire district, were ready for PARCC to begin on Monday, March 24th.

For the most part, the testing sessions were a success. I spent the majority of my days monitoring the iPad classrooms. The major issues involved keyboards freezing, iPads needing to be rebooted, and test sessions having to be resumed through the Pearson Access website. These issues were resolved quickly and all students were able to complete their assessments in the time allotted.  Test sessions in the PC and MAC labs ran exceptionally well throughout most of the week, except for a few minor issues with headphones and sound, but again, those issues were resolved quickly. On two occasions during the week I had to call Pearson customer service for assistance with resuming test sessions for several students. My wait time on hold was less than two minutes and the customer service representative I spoke with was efficient in reloading the test session. At the end of the week, all four classrooms were once again set up with the appropriate devices and ready to begin the next round of testing on Monday. I’m optimistic that next week’s sessions, which start tomorrow, will be a success.

How Technology Kept Me Connected…To My Students

Because I was out last week, I was unable to teach the  two sections of my Digital Literacy/Web 2.0 class. This was the hardest part of PARCC, not being in the classroom with my students. Likewise, many of my students missed my class because they were in PARCC testing sessions. But thanks to a variety of technology tools, my absence didn’t affect my ability to communicate with my students and vice versa. My students were assigned a digital citizenship project to work on throughout the week. Prior to PARCC starting, I reviewed the project and learning goals with both of my classes. I had shared a Google folder with them and they all placed their completed Google Docs in this folder. I was able to communicate with them through Remind101. This allowed students to receive short messages from me via a text message on their cell phones. Additionally, I used MoveNote for Gmail to send my students a video reminder of what was due for the upcoming week. Without this technology, I would not have been able to stay connected to my students while I was out helping with the PARCC exam. I feel fortunate to have access to this type of technology. These tools allow me to stay on track with my curriculum and more importantly, I’m still accessible to my students.

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Students receive Remind101 messages from me on their cell phones

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