Smarter Balanced and PARCC Issue Guidance for New Instructional Technology Purchases

Specifications Provide Assurance that New Devices will be Compatible with Next-Generation Assessments

OLYMPIA, Wash. – The Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (Smarter Balanced) and the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) today issued guidance designed to inform schools and districts as they make annual instructional technology purchases. The guidelines include hardware and operating system specifications covering the vast majority of commercially available computers and tablets.

Specifications common to both consortia are described below. The full guidelines are available online:

“Schools and districts make decisions each year about what types of hardware and software to purchase for instructional use, and they want to know that any devices acquired over the next two years will be compatible with the new assessments,” said Tony Alpert, chief operating officer of Smarter Balanced. “We are confident that new computers and tablets meeting these specifications will be Smarter Balanced-ready in 2014-15.”

The specifications issued today are meant to inform current and future purchasing decisions. As part of their plans to support instruction, districts and schools may select computer systems that meet or exceed these guidelines and be confident that those systems will work with the assessments in the 2014-15 school year. Support for operating systems not specified, predating those specified, or with processor capacities lower than recommended, will be described in future updates to these guidelines.

The specifications do not constitute the full list of technical requirements that will be necessary to administer Smarter Balanced and PARCC assessments 2014-2015. The member states in both consortia will collaborate to use the technology readiness surveys and assessment design processes currently underway to shape the full and final list of requirements including guidance on bandwidth, test system security, and alternate input devices.

“Technology is key to PARCC states’ ability to develop and administer K-12, computer-based assessments that will deliver useful information quickly to determine whether students are on a pathway to college and career readiness,” said Wes Bruce, Indiana’s Chief Assessment Officer and Chair of the PARCC Technology Operational Working Group. “The specifications released today will help all states match their technology purchases with their needs for instructional use as well as support the types of innovative tasks and items that will be used to make up the PARCC assessment.”

Smarter Balanced and PARCC are developing next-generation assessments aligned to the Common Core State Standards. With assistance from the State Educational Technology Directors Association (SETDA), the consortia have developed a Technology Readiness Tool to support states as they transition to next-generation assessments. Baseline data is currently being collected and will be updated twice annually through 2014 to provide detailed information on technology and infrastructure readiness.

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