By Karen Sells
Washington County Schools were completing another grueling week of TCAP tests on April 30, but preparations are already under way for the move to a new online assessment that will begin in spring 2015.
Tennessee adopted the Common Core State Standards in mathematics and English language arts in July 2010. The initiative, currently being implemented, is designed to provide a foundation for success in college and the workforce.
The Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers is a consortium of 26 states working together to develop common assessments aligned to the Common Core Standards that will replace the Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program. Tennessee is one of the state partners in the PARCC Consortium.
The PARCC assessments will be computer-based and used from grade three through high school. The assessments for grades three through eight will be vertically aligned with secondary-level assessments to ensure coherence and progression of learning. High school assessments will certify whether students are prepared for credit-bearing, baccalaureate-level college courses. Participating states will move to the online testing by the 2014-15 school year.
“The assessment is 100 percent online,” Director of Schools Ron Dykes said, which is driving his increased budget request for technology. “It’s not just the hardware, but the infrastructure needed for access.”
Much of the educational curriculum is now being delivered in electronic format, according to Dykes.
“In the past, we would adopt a textbook and supplements,” he said. “Now the texts and the supplements are online.”
Some resistance to the PARCC assessment is being felt, Dykes said, mainly due to the fiscal ticket.
“Some systems are struggling financially, and the amount of technology needed is putting them in a tough spot,” he said.
Washington County is already determining what it will take to be ready for the full rollover to PARCC in 2015.
During a recent budget work session, Board of Education members were told Sulphur Springs Elementary does not currently have enough computers for the online assessments. “Everything we are doing now and during the upcoming school year is in preparation,” Dykes said.
Significant technology upgrades would be necessary regardless of the PARCC requirements, according to Dykes, who said 80 percent of jobs soon will require at least a technical degree. “We’re training students now for jobs that don’t exist,” he said.
Students need instruction delivered in a digital format from the first day they enter school, Dykes said. “They will not be competitive or ready if we are not able to provide it.