Mar 262014
 

145101266Tuesday was the first day of the online PARCC field test at Groton-Dunstable Regional High School. We had 184 students were set to take the pilot test that is currently being assessed by the state of Massachusetts to potentially replace the MCAS test. This post is more of a “what we learned” as we went along in our preparation for the test rather than an indictment of standardized testing in general.

One of the first things we did was to make sure all of our tech specifications met the minimum requirements set forth by PARCC. We currently boast a 300 mbps wireless capacity and 700 Samsung Google Chromebooks throughout the district. Both of these items met the minimum specs from PARCC. We encouraged students to bring their own headphones for the auditory part of the test, but also had reserves on hand. At this point, we could check all the boxes for our testing equipment.

The really geeky high-tech details

The next phase was getting all of the Chromebooks set up for testing. We created two profiles for our Chromebooks carts in the Google Apps Management Dashboard. One group was just the normal cart # and group while the second group was the cart # and the term “kiosk”. This would allow us to easily move the normal group of Chromebooks (30 at a time) into the kiosk group. Then, under device management & gt; chrome & gt; device settings we selected the kiosk cart and scrolled down to the “Kiosk settings”, selected “Manage Kiosk Applications” & gt; searched for “TestNAV” and added that application (see below).

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Once you added that application you have two choices.

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1. You can have the Chromebook launch and auto-login to the TestNAV app. This means the students only have access to the TestNAV app and nearly all other options on the device are rendered inoperable. The downside to this option is that for the auditory parts of the test, students cannot adjust the volume on the device. Also, the devices are pretty much off limits to be used for anything else beyond the testing sessions.

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2. You select the “Auto-login to kiosk app” drop-down menu to “none”. This will present a different screen upon launching the Chromebook for students. Students will see a login screen for their GAFE accounts, but at the bottom-left hand side of the navigation bar, they will see the word “Apps”. When they click apps, they will see TestNav and proceed into the TestNAV application to begin the test. Another key point to this section is that students, before launching into the TestNAV app will have the ability to adjust the volume for the auditory portions of the test. (We used this option and it worked very well)

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Setting up the Test Sessions

School/Institution test coordinators (as deemed by PARCC) should upload students taking the test ahead of time. Once student data is uploaded and students are registered for their respective tests, the Tech Coordinator along with the School/Institution test coordinators should create the “Test Sessions” under the Test Management. Note that each grouping of students needs to have their own individual test session setup. This is also the page where users can print out student authorization tickets (what they need the day of the test in order to login) and seal codes (for the proctor to administer at different intervals of the test). Both of these items are essential for the day of the test.

Proctor caching

A few days before we setup our “proctor caching” machine. (NOTE: This option is highly recommended and saved us a lot of worry about our network timeouts or interruptions.) The tech coordinator should designate one machine to be your proctor caching machine and install the proctor caching software (Windows or Mac). You can follow along with the information from PearsonAccess for further install instructions. The next steps will be different depending on schools. One piece of advice is to start the proctor caching the night before so that essentially the test will download and require limited bandwidth during the test.

Test Day

During the day of the test, I went through each test session and started it ahead of time. This took the responsibility off the test proctor and the test was essentially ready to go once the students logged in. We briefed our proctors for a few minutes before the test (this was also done earlier in the week to make sure we could address all protocols and allow for questions). Also, the day before the test we made sure all of the Chromebooks had a full charge and then at the end of the day, took the devices out of the carts and placed them on each desk (turned off).

The proctors went over the script with students, had students turn on the device, instructed them to adjust the volume to their liking, and then locate the TestNAV app in the lower-left. At this point all of the authorization codes were passed out. Students logged in and started the test. Some Chromebooks did not allow students to login because the Chromebook was not connecting to the proctor caching machine. This was a common error. I simply had the student log out of the test, swapped out the Chromebook, and had the student log back in to another device. This resolved the issue and made apparent that it’s a good idea to have backup devices ready to launch. The only other major issue we discovered during the test was video playback. Some students could not get their video to play. I did not have a solution for this issue.

When students completed a section, they couldn’t go on to the next section until the proctor advertised the next seal code on the board. Once posted, the students could move on to the next section. At the end of the first day, we had students log out of the test (this can be found in the upper-right hand corner next to their name) instead of hitting the green continue button or exiting the test. This is important to note because students who quit and exit the test will give the impression that they have completed the entire test. Having them log out instead will show that the test is incomplete and it will allow the proctor or tech coordinator to resume that test on another day.

Takeaways 

Ultimately, the test went off without too many complications. I have some concerns about the time and resources this test will require on a large scale level. We will have 184 students (Grades 11 and 9) take the test this week, 100 middle school students take it during the second week of April, and 50 3rd grade students take it in early June. We don’t have a lot of numbers, but we (assistant superintendent, technology team, building principals, proctors) committed a lot of time in preparation. However, my friends at Burlington Public Schools are rolling this test out on a much larger scale. From my conversations with them, it has been all consuming. My worry is that this test will consume valuable time from central office administration, tech directors and IT managers, principals, and teachers. Plus, the tangible resources needed to make sure this test is carried out properly. I know many schools don ’ t have currently available, nor is the availability on the horizon.

(This article is reprinted from the G-DRSD Director of Technology’s blog at http://gdrsdedtech.org/.)