The Challenge: This year, the Indiana Department of Education mandated that all students in grades 3-8 will be tested online for the multiple choice test. In our case, that means readying nearly 6,000 computers with the required software and content. In order to participate in the statewide stress test, this needs to be ready by January 14th.
The Options: In years past we have used a hybrid approach where we have moved to preposition content on devices. We had hoped to take similar steps this year. However, the client was not available to us until after Christmas, thus creating a very small window before January 14th. Given that about 3,500 of our devices are wireless, pushing out the information in mass via SCCM was going to have a very negative impact on our curricular needs. For the most part, that leaves us with the alternative option of letting the client auto-install the content when it runs from a network share. We have created a generic locked-down ISTEP user that all students/proctors will log in to the machine with and launch the client. Note that we learned from last year’s scramble and left the audio controls available this year.
The Concerns: In our testing here, launching the client for the first time takes a minimum of 45 seconds on wireless and up to minutes. Unfortunately the client gives no indication that it is running during this, so we are very concerned that students are going to try to open the client many, many times. It is also very important on wireless that all clients copy content before testing begins. We know from past years that copying during testing saturates the network and causes errors. Hopefully, we can get that word out enough.
The Impacts: Thankfully the stress test is not high-stakes for our students. We are hopeful it goes well enough that we do not create a lot of concern with staff and students on how well it all works. Certainly doing it in this very short time window is not ideal. We also expect there to be some impact on building networks and the Internet connection. We will be monitoring the situation and moving aggressively to shut down high-bandwidth sites as needed during all windows, including the stress test starting on January 14th.
Today is the start of the online ISTEP for grades 4-8. We will be in full testing mode from 4/30 to 5/11.
Please contact our HelpDesk for any widespread testing disruptions. If you have issues with only a couple of students, please double-check their login info with your building testing administrator and/or the CTB HelpDesk.
The Technology Department at MSDPT is currently deep in a multi-year process to shift resources and aim technology squarely at instruction as best we can. In this age of cost cutting and increased testing, it is our job to do the absolute best we can with our resources to provide the best environment possible. This environment must be able to meet the new ideas and needs of our staff while also preparing our students for the new world in front of them.
Over the last few years we pushed forward with new technologies that brought this department into new worlds. Last year culminated with a switch to an entirely new network platform and the centralization and virtualization of all of our building servers. Reforming around this model we are able to both better support technology, but also to do it while surviving staff cuts and whatever else comes down the line.
Our goal now is continue that efficiency momentum on to the next level, the desktop computer. Over the next few months we will be embarking on a project that has great potential to transform. Perry Meridian High School is going to be both our testing platform and showcase school as we work out the kinks in Desktop Virtualization within Perry Township. We will be walking (even crawling) a very slow line at working this solution in to the building. If all goes to plan we’ll be able to create a desktop experience at this building unlike any other in the township. Machines will last far longer without dropping off in performance and support will be even quicker. Stay tuned here as we’ll also begin to talk about some of the new innovations that come along with this change for PH and hopefully everyone as we work down the line.
At this same time that project is ongoing, we’ll be accelerating our goal of rolling out innovative, interactive classrooms. We have watched the original versions of these rooms have truly amazing impact on instruction. In watching the over 100 rooms already converted we have witnessed the staff embrace and push instruction to a new level. We are working to free up staff resources to support this initiative and eventually create enough money savings from our desktop and server projects to fit all classrooms K-8. The School Board provided us a great gift in a large sum of specially allocated money with the purpose being to speed up these installations. We will be installing 160 new classrooms at the 6-8 level over the next couple months. Stay tuned to this space for updates on this project.
There are a lot of changes and exciting things coming all of our way over the next couple of months. As always, goal number one of Technology is to support teaching and learning with strong equipment and customer service.
One of the major items the Technology Department is knee deep in is the changing role of online assessments. I wanted to take a minute to share the upcoming and current changes that are occurring in that realm.
5 of our elementaries, both academies, and both middle schools just completed participation in the Indiana Diagnostic Acuity I. We had to test just about all students 4 times in a three week window. For our first time out, especially, this went incredibly well. All buildings were able to complete testing and now have some outstanding data at our teachers fingertips to guide instruction at the individual level. A series of trainings were held all last week regarding data analysis and that information should be on its way back to your buildings. We’re beginning to spool up now to start Algebra I predictive tomorrow and for the first time we’ll have some valid data on Algebra placements, strengths, and weaknesses.
The state is pushing hard to get the multiple choice portions of the ISTEP+ taken online. Undoubtedly this is a massive undertaking for all of us. There was a large online pilot that completed successfully last year and we are hopeful that will translate into a smooth process for us all. This year, we will be testing the upper grade level of all buildings (3-8) online. This process is beginning in earnest now as we are working with installing roughly 1,000 clients in preparation for load-testing that will occur this month.