Thursday, December 6, 2012

PARCC - Common Core Test Will Require Students on Computers

Beginning in 2014-2015, there will be 23 states adopting the new, Common Core driven, PARCC standardized assessment. While the Common Core has been adopted in 45 states and the replacement of current high stakes tests with this new multi-state tool are common knowledge, there are some things that are not common knowledge.

As of December 2012, the expectations of PARCC will be that all students are taking the exam on a computer device with few exceptions. This is a quote directly from their technology FAQ:

What about schools and districts who don’t have adequate technology capacity by the 2014-2015 school year? Will there be a paper and pencil version of the assessment?A paper and pencil version of the 2014-2015 assessment will be made available for students who require certain accommodations that preclude online test-taking. The PARCC Governing Board is considering how to provide paper and pencil format assessments as an option for states that need it to address technology capacity gaps or other factors.
What the governing board appears to be saying is they want states to be on board with the computer based exams. While they may bend and create an alternative approach for the first year or two, it is clear they want schools to be ready for them.

 PARCC has published on its website some early definititions of minimum system requirements for hardware and software. This test could have a major impact on districts across the country as they try to upgrade hardware and software to meet the minimum requirements for a test that doesn't yet exist.

Locally, we primarily run Windows XP on machines with less than 1gb of RAM. Optimistically, I think that maybe this bodes well for major upgrades to our technology infrastructure. I am also aware that making major upgrades will require cuts or freezes in spending in other budget areas unless we get outside help. Clearly the impact of this test will be felt in many areas, and it will undoubtedly produce many growing pains as it is implemented. My hope is that the growing pains include updated technology infrastructure for all schools involved.

Chad McGowan is a high school technology teacher and professional development specialist in technology. Over the past 16 years, Chad has taught a variety of math and computer course from 7-12. Since 2000, Chad has been guiding other professionals in technology by staying current and learning from those around him. Follow Chad on Twitter @ahstechteacher and through this blog.


  1. One of the issues I think is often overlooked is network capacity.

    It is all well and good to have minimum system requirements for machines, but what about network load? For instance, our wireless access points can only support 20 simultaneous connections, after the 21st speed drops off and you run the risk of forcing the access point to reboot, thereby knocking everyone off.

    This is one of the situations where I feel the hardware is the easiest problem to solve... buy more systems. I think the bigger issue is how much bandwidth are these tets going to consume and what needs to be done to the infrastructure to support it.

    Thanks for the blog post.

    1. That's a great point and a tough one to measure. Our school system has done a nice job of improving the infrastructure, but we still have holes in the system. It is also solvable, but is not as easy to solve, especially in older buildings or underfunded areas.


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