PARCC: Is This the Next Big Thing?
3/28/2013 By: Jon Castelhano
All of the new accountability can leave many educators feeling like they are pounding
square peg pedagogy into round hole requirements. School CIO advisor Jon Castelhano
helps break down some of these new rules and reassures districts that it’s not too late to
prepare for PARCC.
Sometimes it is difficult to take the next “big”
thing in education seriously. Initiatives seem
to come and go, and quite often districts take
the wait-and-see approach before making
changes and investments. However, when it
comes to the Common Core state standards, all
but a small handful of states have already adopted them
and begun implementation. Many consortia and task
forces have been formed to collaborate and support one
another with the implementation. So where is the hook
into technology? Through a new set of assessments, called
PARCC, technology is being embedded into the standards
themselves as well as into the assessments.
WHAT IS PARCC ?
PARCC is a consortium made up of 22 states that serve
roughly 24 million students. The consortium is funded by
a grant from the U.S. Department of Education. PARCC’s
task is to develop and design a next-generation assessment
system that will test the Common Core standards.
THE PARCC VISION
States that participate in PARCC’s assessments are
committed to building a K-12 assessment system that
adheres to the following standards:
• Builds a pathway to college and career readiness
for all students,
• Creates high-quality assessments that measure
the full range of the Common Core state
• Supports educators in the classroom,
• Makes better use of technology in assessments, and
• Advances accountability at all levels.
HOW WILL DISTRICTS GAIN ACCESS TO PARCC ’S ASSESSMENTS?
The PARCC assessments will be delivered
online. The consortium has been busy
developing technology guidelines. For those
districts that have robust Internet connections
and the ability to refresh their computers every
three years, the guidelines will probably not
cause alarm. However, most districts don’t have
this luxury and have been very creative over the
years with extending the life of their hardware.
Many districts may be able to squeak by with the
minimum requirement specifications up until the 2014-2015 assessment, but most likely these
requirements will not be compatible with any
assessments after the 2015-2016 school year.
THERE’S STILL TIME TO GET ON BOARD WITH PARCC
With the full operational administration of
PARCC assessments scheduled for the 2014-
2015 school year, there is still time for planning
and preparation. So where is the most logical
place to start?
By working together with The SMARTER
Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC),
the State Educational Technology Directors
Association (SET DA), and Pearson, PARCC has
developed a Tech Readiness Tool that will help
states make the transition to next-generation
assessments. The Tech Readiness Tool gives
districts a way to enter data on their computers and
other devices, determine the ratio of devices to test
takers, build up their networks and infrastructure,
add additional staff members, and train staff
members as needed. A district staff member can
manually enter or upload the device inventory into
the Tech Readiness Tool. After a district completes
the school-readiness survey questions and submits
the data, the tool will provide a number of reports
that will give a snapshot about how prepared the
district is for the upcoming assessments.
Cathy Poplin, deputy associate
superintendent for educational technology at the Arizona Department of Education and a PARCC
technology readiness coordinator, has done a
number of PARCC readiness trainings with
Arizona school districts. For districts that are in
transition, she says, “I would highly recommend
reviewing the PARCC Tech Specification
(Version 2) document and sharing it with your
district leadership. In addition, look at all of the
reports provided by the Tech Readiness Tool. The
data can be exported into a spreadsheet or printed
directly as a PDF document.”
She also advises districts to pay particular
attention to devices that meet the minimum and
recommended specifications. She says, “I would
begin to work on a plan to upgrade or replace
any computer running Windows XP. I would
also encourage districts to use the PARCC rule
of thumb—one computer for every two students
in the largest tested grade level—to begin to
think about what this means for their school
Poplin also encourages district leaders
to read SET DA’s document on “Technology
Readiness for College and Career Ready
Teaching, Learning, and Assessment” (www.setda.org/c/document_library/get_file?folderI
d=350&name=DLFE-1628.pdf ). She says, “It
encourages local education agencies to think
bigger than just technology for assessment. It
also makes them think and plan for technology
for teaching and learning. Common Core standards have clear expectations about the use
of technology by students.”
The PARCC leadership team is working on the
final touches of a planning guide that they hope to
release in the near future. The guide will include
a draft of the School Technology Readiness
Planning calculator, which should assist districts
with different testing options. It is important
to remember that the online assessment is not
traditional with respect to the amount of time a
district has to administer the test to the designated
grades. At this time there is a 20-day maximum
window for the Performance Based Assessment
(PBA) and a 20-day maximum for the End of Year
Assessment (EOY). With the length of the testing
window and assistance from the Tech Readiness
Tool and eventually the planning calculator, the
transition to next-generation assessments can be a
There are still many unanswered questions
concerning the timeline and funding sources.
Some people think the assessment will never
become a reality. It is also likely the guidelines
will have a few revisions before they are final.
Whatever your opinion is on the PARCC
assessment, this is a good opportunity to take a
closer look at networks and devices and reflect
on the experience we are providing to our
students and teachers.
Jon Castelhano is director of technology for
Apache Junction USD in Arizona.
SCHOOL CIO BY THE NUMBERS
WILL MORE DATA MAKE A DIFFERENCE?
of respondents believe that
data will be the primary driver
of what teachers teach, how
they teach, and to whom they
teach within the next 4 years
(67% in the next 2 years).
of the respondents believe that
district-level support is “not
enough” in all areas of data
use. Compared to 2 years ago,
district-level support has
dropped in all areas.
of respondents believe that over
60% of their teachers are actively
using data to drive instruction.