Technology gets an 'A' for performance during PARCC pilot

Technology gets an 'A' for performance during PARCC pilot

NORTH PROVIDENCE - The district's students and technology infrastructure have been put to the test to pilot the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers exam scheduled to replace the New England Common Assessment Placement test next year.

While students' PARCC scores will not count, pressure has been put on the execution of the exam and its online components to see if the equipment and servers could function successfully.

School officials breathed a sigh of relief last week when they reported to the School Committee that results have exceeded expectations.

At the meeting on March 26, Supt. Melinda Smith commended Asst. Supt. Lisa Jacques, the technology team led by Director David Wright, as well as teachers and principals for their preparation and quick problem-solving skills.

"I didn't expect it to go this smoothly," Smith said. "It's a testament to our technology department."

She also gave special thanks to Business Manager John McNamee, who she said acted as the technology director before Wright was hired.

"If he hadn't pushed through the tech initiative, we wouldn't be able to even log on today," Smith said.

But log on they did, and then some.

Jacques reported that last Wednesday, day three, ran smoothly, with fixes found for every scenario that arose. There were "little glitches," she said, "but nothing big. The kids just jump back on and they're fine."

Select grades in all North Providence schools are participating in this PARCC field test, with subjects and methods chosen by the Rhode Island Department of Education, Jacques said. Some students took the test on paper, some tested online. There are two testing sessions: Performance Based Assessment, or PBA, runs from March 24 to April 11; and the End of Year Assessment, or EOY, will be held from May 5 to June 6.

Testing in North Providence is as follows:

* Marieville Elementary School - Grade 5 English language arts PBA and EOY online.

* Stephen Olney Elementary School - Grade 4 math PBA on paper; grade 5 English language arts PBA on paper.

* James L. McGuire Elementary School - Grade 4 English language arts PBA online; grade 5 English language arts PBA online.

* Dr. Joseph A. Whelan Elementary School - Grade 3 English language arts PBA online; grade 5 math EOY online.

* Centredale Elementary School - Grade 5 math PBA on paper.

* Greystone Elementary School - Grade 3 math PBA and EOY online; grade 5 math EOY online.

* Dr. E. A. Ricci Middle School - Grade 6 math PBA online; grade 7 English language arts PBA online; grade 8 English language arts PBA online.

* Birchwood Middle School - Grade 6 math PBA online; grade 7 English language arts PBA and EOY on paper; grade 8 math PBA on paper.

* North Providence High School - Grade 9 English language arts PBA online; grade 10 English language arts PBA online, Algebra 2 PBA online.

Jacques told The Breeze that the field testing's success is due to the purchase of two laptop carts for each elementary and middle school. Wireless internet access has also been installed in all buildings, thanks to a $300,000 grant through RIDE's wireless classroom initiative.

"In addition, all students are now receiving computer literacy instruction called Easy Tech as part of their library curriculum in grades K-6 and all students grades 6-8 receive tech ed instruction," she said.

Jacques said the school librarians did well preparing students for the online components, and that overall, students have had a positive attitude about it.

"It was great to see even 3rd-graders log on with ease and participate in the field test," Jacques said. "Our students today are used to interacting with text and video on the computer or other mobile devices."

Teachers and students also practiced with samples released online, she said.

"This has just gone so smoothly, and I just can't thank everyone enough," Jacques said. "It's been a great effort."

But, she pointed out, it is still ongoing. The School Department is seeking $1.29 million from next year's budget for technology to purchase more equipment and improve services and instruction. The plan, McNamee has previously said, is that technology costs would increase from 1.1 percent to 2.3 percent of the budget, if it is approved.

"Utilizing technology in every classroom daily with quality instruction and resources, along with a curriculum aligned to state and national standards, will prepare North Providence students for not only graduation, but for college and careers," Jacques said.

"The improvements in technology and instructional resources needed isn't about getting ready for a test. It is about providing our students in North Providence with the necessary tools for a successful life in a rapidly-changing, high-tech world."


Clearly there is a light at the end of the tunnel, that being that technology may save the day. NP schools have come from the dark ages in technology to a real player for education. This is a very exciting time in the school district because our kids are getting into the main stream of learning opportunities. Technology will one day be the equalizer in our education system so that all kids get a chance to excel and will overcome many of the weaknesses that exist today. Kudos to Melinda Smith and her team, we will be seeing more positive results in the coming months and years.