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Assessment Consortia Offer Technology-Purchasing Guidelines

The new tests for the common standards aren't expected to be fully operational for three more years, but schools are already wondering what they'll need to do, technologically speaking, to be ready for the new assessments.

The answer is rolling out in stages, but one stage rolled out today: The two consortia of states that are designing the tests issued joint technology-purchasing guidelines to help schools and districts as they buy technology now. The outline helps them decide on hardware and operating systems that lend themselves to the new tests.

For instance, they specify that computers should have processors that run at 1 GHz or faster, and have at least 1 gigabyte of RAM. Computers should be running Windows 7 or Mac 10.7 (other operating systems are listed, too) and have a wired or wireless network connection. Desktops and laptops aren't the only acceptable devices, either; tablets and netbooks that meet the specifications are fine, too. For the full run-down of specifications, see the guidelines themselves.

This isn't the full and final list of specifications, though. The two groups have a survey out in the field right now that will help them determine where states and districts are in their technological readiness for the new tests. That will help inform a more detailed set of guidelines, which will include information on bandwidth, test system security and alternate input devices, according to consortia officials.

The two groups also plan to put out guidance on how to support technology that doesn't meet the specifications they suggest for the forthcoming tests.

More about today's guidelines can be found on the SMARTER Balanced site and on the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) site.

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