Monday, June 9, 2014

PARCC testing? No worries, page wont load...


The Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Career.

Essentially taking the good ol' Scantron bubble sheets of my youth and putting all standardized testing online. Awesome. Saves paper. Quicker return of data. Fantastic.

It'll never happen.

Or at least not soon.

Here's a quick breakdown of why I think PARCC testing is years and years away...

  • devices
    • we have roughly 400 students in testing grades (3-5) but not 400 devices
    • we could go grade-by-grade. testing on different days/weeks
    • we could probably muster 100-125 devices for a day or testing (no one else would have a device, but the kids could take a test on what's available)
  • wifi
    • our access points cap out at 20 connections
    • past 20, signal fades, if not cuts completely until devices drop off 
    • we have class sizes up to 32
  • network
    • elementary schools are capped (within the NYCDOE) at 10 MB of bandwidth
    • can that 10 MB support hundreds of simultaneous connections, sending & receiving all the testing data?

And here's my biggest reason it can't happen. It's the culmination of all of the above. We are an elementary school. With 10 MB of network pipe. And what did I do today? Saturated the network with a single download

single download on single iMac spikes network saturation

As I type this my lone iMac is responsible for over 80% of network traffic. From downloading a single disc image.
my iMac is the 79.2% (I've intentionally omitted the associated IP addresses)

Yes, it is a large file. Almost 30 GB. Yes, 30. Gigs, with a G. The DOE requires us to use only approved operating system images. We have to download them from a DOE site. It's a requirement. I'm following the rules...

An important side note, I'm doing this today because it is a 1/2 day. All students dismissed at noon. Teachers are doing grade articulation and cumulative records. All paper based. There is very little network traffic on days like today (note the next active "talker" above is at 8.3%)

So, if we are to believe PARCC can work, then we need to believe that 

  • no more than 20 devices will be used for testing in any given room
  • not all grades, or classes, will test on the same day
  • testing data for 100s of simultaneous students will put less strain on the network than a single (large) download form a DOE site
  • there are hundreds of thousands of students in testing grades in NYC, and the network can support that level of usage

Oh, and not to mention there are far more students in all of New York State, supposedly all testing at the same time. For test integrity and security purposes.

Don't get me wrong, I think there are great merits in online testing. Less paper, faster reporting of results and associated data. There are lots of plusses. Problem is the infrastructure is just one link in the chain.

Oh, and is Pearson/McGraw-Hill/<insert test publisher name here> ready? Are their servers and fall-backs prepped for hundreds of thousands of simultaneous hits?

It will be interesting to see when, and if, PARCC truly gets rolled out.

Rumor is "field testing" starts next year, 2014-2015 school year, with a small sampling of schools throughout New York State.

Will be interesting to see.

If nothing else, I'm hoping PARCC will force faster, more reliable networks and get more devices into students hands...

A 1:1 Chromebook elementary school on a 40 MB pipe would be a nice side-effect of PARCC testing, don't ya think...?

No comments:

Post a Comment