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Tools of technology for schools

A plan to implement an online assessment strategy
Since Houston ISD started using Online Assessment Planning Tool in 2015, web-based assessments there rose from 3 percent to an estimated high of 50 percent by late May 2017. (GettyImages.com).
Since Houston ISD started using Online Assessment Planning Tool in 2015, web-based assessments there rose from 3 percent to an estimated high of 50 percent by late May 2017. (GettyImages.com).

Making the transformation from traditional to online assessments can cause confusion for many districts, even when it comes to basic definitions.

In Houston ISD, for example, analysts found that school leaders were using the right terminology, but their understanding of the words differed widely. Some thought an online assessment was about downloading a scoring sheet, while others believed it meant getting on a computer and doing a PARCC-like assessment.

Other schools find it hard to bridge the gap between their technology and instruction silos.

So Houston leaders began assessing their readiness and using Online Assessment Planning Tool, developed by the nonprofit eLearn Institute in partnership with Eduvate, an education strategy consultant firm.

It was designed to help districts evaluate the state of their assessment readiness and to devise plans for implementing and supporting the shift to “technology enhanced teaching, learning, and assessment,” according to the study, “Online Assessment: From Readiness to Opportunity.”

Since Houston started using it in 2015, web-based assessments there rose from 3 percent to an estimated high of 50 percent by late May 2017, says Diana Bidulescu, manager for online testing for Houston ISD.

The tool identified gaps in the district’s technology readiness, she says, such as the need to upgrade infrastructure in some schools. Uncovering the gaps helped Houston plan for future purchases and decide which grants to apply for to buy devices for the district’s elementary and middle schools.

Administrators also learned if their devices were sufficient for testing under the district’s network, where student access to harmful or non-educational online content is filtered, and met CIPA and COPPA compliance for the protection and privacy of minors on the internet, Bidulescu says.

The tool will be more effective when cross-functional district teams use it. For example, drawing members from curriculum and instruction, PD, assessment and technology can lead to creating a collaborative online assessment program.

And the tool includes a self-reporting survey that measures nine components of online assessment readiness: strategic planning and leadership, communications, assessment practices, instructional practices, PD, technology infrastructure, systems integration, logistics and effective data use.

For more, visit eLearn Institute’s Online Assessment Planning Tool website.


Robert Lerose is a freelance writer in New York.