Opinion
School & District Management Opinion

21 Months (and Counting) to Online Assessments

By Tom Vander Ark — December 21, 2012 2 min read
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By Tom Vander Ark and Carri Schneider

2012 is quickly drawing to a close. When the calendar page flips to 2013 in just a couple of weeks, we suspect that the 2014 implementation of the next
generation of online assessments is suddenly going to feel much closer. That realization is sure to provoke a wave of high blood pressure fanning out
across the land. But - have no fear - the new DLN Smart Series white paper is here!

We partnered with Digital Learning Now! and the Foundation for Excellence in Education to create the DLN Smart Series to help state and district leaders tackle the
implementation issues at the intersection of Common Core and digital learning. This paper is the third in the series (following papers onfunding student access and reimagining student records) to offer specific
advice to those making the shift.

The “Getting Ready for Online Assessment” paper is coupled with a detailed “Countdown to 2014" timeline that provides discrete action steps toward
implementation over the next 21 months.

However, the paper challenges state and local leaders to move beyond compliance for test readiness. Because it really matters to us, we situate the move to
online assessments in the broader framework of personalized, digital learning. Because we believe you can’t separate assessment from instruction, we use
the release of minimum technology guidelines from Smarter Balanced and PARCC to build the case for making these broader instructional shifts.

The paper concludes with recommendations to states, districts, and the state testing consortia. The authors offer states and districts the following advice
to help them seize the opportunities for better teaching and learning that the shift to online assessment creates.



  1. Match teaching and testing environments

  2. Shift to digital instructional materials

  3. Boost student access to technology

  4. Build a plan for the shift

  5. Support adoption of blended models

  6. Boost broadband

  7. Invest in teaching training

  8. Learn from other states

  9. Use sample test items in class; and

  10. Use Core-aligned adaptive assessment.

Recommendations to PARRC, Smarter Balanced, and related parties are provided to help the consortia build continued momentum and generate on-going awareness
of the instructional shifts that the assessments necessitate.

The consortia are advised to:



  1. Encourage upgrades

  2. Plan versions

  3. Redefine comparability

  4. Go “on demand”

  5. Lean forward

  6. Don’t phase in; and

  7. Support competency-based learning.

The 21-month timeline provides an appropriate pivot point for the shift to personalized, digital learning. The combination of digital content and digital
assessment provides more than sufficient rationale (benefits and savings) to support an overall plan to increase student access to technology.


“Getting Ready for Online Assessment” was co-written by John Bailey, Executive Director of DLN, Tom Vander Ark, Executive Editor of Getting Smart, and
Carri Schneider, Director of Policy and Research of Getting Smart.


Download the full paper, executive summary, and infographic and learn more at //digitallearningnow.com/dln-smart-series/ and Twitter hashtag #SmartSeries.

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The opinions expressed in Vander Ark on Innovation are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.


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