Common Core tech readiness: A CDE Q and A
As part of the state’s transition to Common Core State Standards, the California Department of Education is encouraging local educational agencies to take advantage of the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium’s Technology Readiness Tool, a survey of computer capacity that’s designed to help school districts and county offices of education prepare for new computerized tests that are scheduled to debut in 2014. Just 17 percent of California schools have indicated completion of the survey, although nearly 60 percent of schools have submitted some level of data since the survey went online last March and have received an evaluation of their technological readiness for the new tests. LEAs are not required to participate in the survey (or to adopt the Common Core, for that matter). But public schools will be held accountable for student performance on Common Core-aligned tests. California Readiness Coordinator Jose Ortega sat down with California Schools to answer some practical questions about the nuts and bolts of participating in the survey.
Is there a deadline for filling out the Technology Readiness Tool survey?
No, there is no deadline. However, the schools and districts that have the most advantage in preparing for the Smarter Balanced assessments, coming in 2014-15, are those that participated in this process. Participating in the survey gives them the chance to conduct their preparation drill by involving all of their critical personnel—their assessment administrators, technology directors, business officers, and in many cases their superintendents and boards of education. In addition, by participating in the TRT, they are able to document the technology that they have which meets the specifications according to the readiness functions built into the TRT.
Who needs to fill this out?
Every LEA that is going to conduct the Smarter Balanced assessments involving students in grades 3-8 and grade 11. However, please note that programs that do not involve students in these grades and not conducting assessments will not need to participate. Such may be the case with adult education programs or other specialty programs serving parenting youth or outreach services that are not conducting assessments—even though they may have technology available within their programs or program campuses. Districts only need to mark those schools as inactive.
Can individual school sites participate, or is the survey designed for districts and county offices of education?
This question is related to the one above. All districts will be held accountable for being ready to conduct the assessments, and all schools within that district that have students in those grade levels who are going to be assessed should participate. Let's say that a school in a district … lacked sufficient technology to conduct the assessments with all their students, and another school in the same district had ample technology. The school district is the agency that would assure that all students within that agency are able to participate in the assessments. That might mean that the technology from one school would need to be shared with the other school.
Will my LEA need a tech guru to understand the questions?
For most questions, the answers can be provided by a reasonably savvy teacher who has some basic understanding of technology specifications. It really is nothing like taking a computer apart and rebuilding it. Districts that have not had the time or personnel to get some basic understanding of the terms, and have relied on their county offices of education for support or on other statewide services such as CTAP [the California Public Utilities Commission’s Deaf and Disabled Telecommunications Program], CETPA [the California Educational Technology Professionals Association], or TechSETS [one of four California Statewide Education Technology Services, or SETS], can perhaps look to these agencies for support.
Can we do our best and fill it out partially?
Filling out the technology readiness tool survey in partial form is a good start. However, filling out the survey only partially won’t tell the district or school whether their technology is sufficient or adequate to conduct the statewide assessments. In order for the system to assess existing technology, it needs to have all of the readiness determinants required to make that judgment.
Does the state offer any tech support?
Yes. Anyone wishing more information about how to access the technology tool, what they must do, or how to upload their data into the system can send us an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. We have fielded hundreds of requests for assistance in this manner. However, we do not have a call-in telephone number. We will at times contact individuals to follow up with them on specific matters or questions they may have.
How are small districts supposed to handle this?
As mentioned above, many small schools and school districts have participated very successfully in this process. This may be partly due to having a teacher or administrator willing to contact us and get started on the process. Many of the questions in the TRT also involve understanding the readiness of staff who will be responsible for supporting the computer adaptive assessment. This means simply gathering information from those persons to determine if they have the technology skills or if they need further assistance. There are six questions regarding school and staff readiness. The more successful districts have empowered teams rather than just one or two people to gather this information and to upload it into the system. This seems to be a very good strategy to use.