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Technology and the Common Core Assessments

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.

  1.  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.”
  2.  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.”
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.


4 replies »

  1. I have retired from teaching and do not have to deal with all of this.
    BUT I understand questions from teachers. Teachers are on the front lines and have to deal and implement anything new. They have to be prepared everyday. No matter what is decided by upper levels, if it isn’t ready…………

    (and guess who will be blamed…….LOL)


    • I agree. Teachers are on the front line, and as I have been in education a LONG time, I see the changes, and for the most part I see positive changes reflected in the classroom. Some changes have seen the demoting of social studies in the elementary classroom, but the Common Core brings social studies and science back to the elementary forefront. The difficulties that these teachers objected to had to do, as usual, with the nitty-gritty details. Technology plays a great part in that. Some schools are up to speed, and this will not be difficult. The world doesn’t really care. They will get their workers wherever they can get the ones who are best equipped. Legislators have to respond to this, and make the best decisions they can at the moment. It is difficult being a teacher and making changes, and they are CONSTANT. Teachers don’t always agree with the changes. So I would advocate that teachers get involved and keep up with the politics that affect THEIR classrooms by joining their state and local Councils for the Social Studies, as well as National Council for the Social Studies (or other subject matter professional organizations). In the case of Common Core, I think most of the teachers see the positive side of adopting them. It is frustrating to teachers because not all districts are up to speed with technology. The good news is that we ARE ahead of the ball at this point. Districts have two years to get ready.


  2. Marsha, I love that you are able to stay positive. As an elementary classroom teacher, the stress of change that is unknown is great. It’s true that being involved in a professional organization, like the California Council for the Social Studies, helps a person feel better prepared.


    • We have three choices of responses in life = positive, negative and neutral. In my experience the positive usually bring us the best results! You have voiced the most important benefit that should appeal to all teachers to become members of CCSS!!!





Hi, I'm Marsha Ingrao, a retired educator and wife of a retired realtor. My all-consuming hobby is blogging and it has changed my life. My friends live all over the world. In November 2020, we sold everything and retired to the mile-high desert of Prescott, AZ. We live less than five miles from the Granite Dells, four lakes, and hundreds of trails with our dog, Kalev, and two cats, Moji and Nutter Butter. Vince's sister came with us and lives close by. Every day is a new adventure.

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