Controversy surrounds the technical requirements schools must meet to administer the new PARCC test which replaces IStep in 2013-2014. Many schools could incur steep costs to update their technology in order to be able to administer the new tests. Under Tony Bennett, the Department of Education was not forthcoming about any additional costs for which school systems would be responsible. Under the current voucher laws, all voucher recipient schools must also follow these technical requirements. Many of these small schools and public rural school systems will struggle to be in compliance without making significant expensive updates. Some school systems may be ready, but others will struggle. Here is the latest set of requirements released by the PARCC testing consortium.
EdWeek reported last week on the PARCC requirements:
The new PARCC guidelines are “very similar” to the Smarter Balanced requirements, said Susan Van Gundy, associate director for assessment technology at Achieve, an organization that is managing the partnership consortium’s work.
One of the requirements focuses on test security. All devices used during the tests—whether laptops, netbooks, tablets—and operating systems must have the capability to “lock down” and temporarily disable features that present a security risk while exams are being given. Certain features would also need to be controlled during test administration, including unlimited Internet access, certain types of cameras, screen captures, e-mail, and instant-messaging, the requirements say.
Some of the PARCC requirements are still to come. Minimum bandwidth requirements won’t be determined until next year, according to PARCC. But the group is setting the recommended bandwidth for external connections to the Internet at 100 kilobits per second, per student or faster, and the minimum for internal school networks at least at 1000 kilobits per second, per student.
Desktop and laptop computers, netbooks, thin clients are among the allowable testing devices. Smartphones will not be allowed for 2014-15, because they do not meet the minimum 9.5-inch screen size, Van Gundy said. Tablets that meet the standards will be allowed. (Smarter Balanced has also said a 9.5-inch screen should be the standard.)
Standards for operating systems vary. The minimum standards for Windows, for instance, is Windows XP/Service Pack 3, though looking ahead, Windows 7 or newer is recommended.