Because California is such a big state, the county offices of education (COEs) play a huge part in getting information and training out to districts from the California Department of Education (CDE.) For the past 15 years I worked at a county office of education. Since public education is governed by the state legislature, legislators, and the State Board of Education (SBE, a board appointed by the governor) dictate policies that affect what teachers do in the classroom. Much of my job for the past fifteen years has been to carry the messages from the legislature, SBE through training for teachers and administrators.
Even though I have retired, this past Thursday I was invited to a different COE to teach a beginning information session about the Common Core Standards. The questions that these teachers raised are pretty universal concerns, and some of them I couldn’t answer, so I thought I would do some research.
Most of the questions were about technology and assessment. The technology problems have not all been solved, nor are they mine to solve. Nonetheless the Smarter Balanced website has some detailed information for states and districts to attend to as they get ready to administer the tests in the spring of 2015.
- Are the tests going to be ready? “Smarter Balanced member states have nominated K-12 teachers and higher education faculty to participate in crafting the Achievement Level Descriptors (ALDs) this fall. Draft ALDs will be available for public feedback and comment later this year. Preliminary ALDs are expected to be finalized by March 2013.”
- Are they writing them right now? Are there going to be released items like we have now? Yes, the grand designers met the day before we did. Here is an important name – Carissa Miller, Ph.D., Smarter Balanced Executive Committee co-chair and deputy superintendent in the Idaho State Department of Education.”Participation in the Pilot Test will be open to all schools in the Consortium… The next Smarter Balanced Collaboration Conference will be held in March 2013.”
- How are we going to be able to all get on and give the tests? We don’t have enough computers. They are not very fast. “Olympia, Wash.–Jan. 31, 2012–The Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium and the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) today announced they have awarded a contract to Pearson to develop a new Technology Readiness Tool” Districts are going to need to use this tool to get their systems ready for the assessments that WILL BE GIVEN in Spring, 2015. More information about this is available on the CDE website. I tried going to the tool itself, but you do have to have a user name and password to access it. Even though I was addressing teachers, the district technology gods are going to have to address this issue. Teachers’ role is in the area of advocacy.
- How are they going to score writing tests? Will there be rubrics? Yes Smarter Balanced has already developed rubrics that are online. For those who are interested there is a PDF of the work plan.
- Are kids going to have to learn to type? Will they scan the kids’ handwriting? I can’t even read it, how will a computer read it? I’m still not sure on this one.
Although there will be some adaptation for students without computers, Teachers need to urge district leader that are dragging their heels to get their internet connections up to speed. One issue that I have noticed as I have traveled around to school district and even county offices (COEs) is the issue of blocking websites. For example, I can not access my own website from some districts and COEs. Teacher created websites are a very useful tool for communicating with teachers and parents, as well as giving students a place to respond to issues, books, articles, and see the responses of others. If the tools are blocked by IT people who control the reins, students may not be able to access the sources they need online to help them take the assessments. This can be very political, and very SCARY to the leaders who want to protect the students from harmful sites. However without access to many sites, students will be harmed by not being able to DO their work.
The two teachers from the Sacramento Diocese will be giving the assessments this year (if you think YOU are feeling stressed!!) using McGraw-Hill assessments. I am including a link to an article about those online assessments. They will give their first interim assessment in October. THAT’S NEXT MONTH! They are blazing the trail here in California.
As I field more questions from teachers, I will pass them along so that if you who read this blog are interested, you can be among the knowledgeable ones.