Lessons Learned, Part 3: Technology

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Lessons Learned, Part 3: Technology

As part of the field test administration this past spring, the PARCC states collected feedback from participants, including students, test administrators, test coordinators and classroom teachers. This is the third in a series of articles that will culminate in a release of a complete “Lessons Learned” in September.


One of the major areas of interest during the field test was how well the technology would perform. That includes the test delivery system, as well as the systems for logging students into the system and carrying out other administrative functions. The good news is that overall, the technology performed well. While there were some glitches, as well as some training needed for school district and school personnel, the technology performed generally as it was supposed to.

So we could learn from the experience, technology and test coordinators filled out surveys after the spring field test and were able to identify areas needing attention. Nearly 1,000 test and technology coordinators from all PARCC states, and over 3,200 individuals shared information about their experience with the PARCC field test.

PARCC has carefully reviewed this feedback and is taking steps to address the issues that were raised. Below are a few examples of feedback received along with how PARCC is working to address the feedback. More detail will be included in the final “Lessons Learned” report that will be released next month.


Feedback: Students were confused as to when to use the SAVE and SUBMIT buttons that appeared at the end of each test session. 

PARCC Response: In the spring 2015 test administration the SUBMIT button will only appear on the last session, which is the only time it should be used. This will prevent students from being locked out of the system prematurely.

Feedback: The equation editor was difficult to use. There were some performance issues and there was difficulty understanding how to use the tool.

PARCC Response: The equation editor is a tool on PARCC’s computer-based tests that allows students to build equations to show solutions to test questions. It consists of numbers and mathematical functions (add, subtract, multiple, divide, and others.). There are three versions: one each for grades 3-5, grades 6-8, and high school, each with more functions. For some math problems, there is a version in which students can write mathematical equations and write text, to explain how they did their work.

Among the fixes under way:

·         Make it clearer for test takers when they are using the math-only editor and when they are using the one that allows for text. This was a source of confusion for some students, according to the survey results.

·         Improve the usability of various math functions. For example, it was not easy to go back into an equation and add a parenthesis. New fixes will allow students to more easily navigate and drag-and-drop equation elements.

In addition, PARCC is working with the vendor to provide a practice test to allow students and teachers to become more familiar with the equation editor before the exam.

Feedback: There were some instances in which test administrators had to restart student tests; sometimes student answers were lost.

PARCC Response: PARCC will have an extensive verification and validation process conducted of the delivery system prior to the operational assessments next spring to confirm that the system can support the thousands of simultaneously test takers without interruptions and without loss of student answers.

Feedback: Using the highlighter tool and other tools, such as the magnifier and drag-and-drop, was difficult for some students, particularly those with accessibility needs.

PARCC Response: PARCC will work with a vendor to conduct a large-scale “dress rehearsal” to identify issues with the tools and develop solutions to further improve functionality before the spring 2015 administration.

Feedback: Some students were unable to load videos, and it was necessary to log out and log in again.

PARCC Response: These issues were typically attributed to content filters on testing devices in schools.  Once a school or district applied the correct content filters provided in set up documentation, these issues were quickly resolved.  PARCC and the vendor are reviewing information shared with school districts and schools about the technology requirements and how to set up devices to reduce blockage of videos due to filter settings.

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