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Technological-Capacity Questions Dog Assessment Consortia

When dozens of states get together to design common, computer-based assessments, they face some hefty technology challenges. That's what the two big state consortia are dealing with as they create tests for the common standards.

The U.S. Department of Education convened some experts recently to advise the consortia on technological-capacity issues at the state and district level. The daylong hearing produced a laundry list of things to attend to. See my story for a run-down. (My colleague Sarah Sparks reported on similar concerns from the AERA conference recently, too.)

Virginia was a high-profile guest expert at this hearing, since it ventured into online testing eons ago (in 2000). I heard a few grumbles in the peanut gallery, though, that even as Virginia is being held up as a leader by the U.S. DOE, some other states (Hawaii, Nebraska) actually give a greater share of their tests online than Virginia does. Even those grumbling, however, acknowledged that Virginia has valuable experience to share as the two consortia try to move nearly every state in the country—all but five are in these consortia—to online testing.

Even as the assembled leaders from the U.S. DOE, the two consortia, and segments of the testing world discussed the technological challenges that lie ahead, they were pestered by those challenges themselves: persistent, annoying feedback from the microphones was traced to BlackBerrys lying around on the tables. At least that was one challenge that was easily dispensed of. That won't be the case for the others facing the consortia.

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