For many of us in education, this spring we will be participating in the PARCC assessments. This is a new computer based standardized testing platform used to replace various state-level assessments and introduce a more standardized testing aligned with the The Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers standards. This assessment has an option to be paper or computer-based. The computer-based assessments support a variety of platforms: Windows, Chromebooks, iPads, Mac and Linux-based systems.

The tests run within a web browser utilizing Java technologies. In our environment, we will be testing on MacBook Airs through Safari. To help with the overall setup and support we have implemented the following.  Some of these are recommendations from Pearson, other are from our field test experience:

  • Utilize a local account on each machine to reduce any possible network login issues
  • Implement a Proctor Cache server in each location to serve test content from our local network
  • Simultaneous test sessions located in close geographic proximity to allow for an easier “support zone”
  • E-Mail address for PARCC related low-priority questions
  • Google Form where test administrators can submit session attendance to build a list of make-ups
  • Phone extension ringing multiple individuals for resuming test sessions in case a student needs to be resumed
  • Setup secondary save location on a network server for student answer profiles

One of the more time-consuming tasks is setting up the test environment. If you will be utilizing Safari over FireFox or Chrome, there are a few additional steps that will need to take place. Keep in mind, to work with a Proctor cache, you’ll need to setup on a dedicated machine with a static IP address and configure a TestNAV configuration in PearsonAccess(Next) pointing to the Proctor Cachine machine.  This is also the same location where you setup your secondary save location.

For our testing environment we worked to create a standardized setup with:

  • Safari as the only Dock application. We kept Documents for future use
  • At login, auto-mount the Secondary Save location network volume  (Add password to keychain)
  • Setup Safari plugin settings for Java to run in unsafe mode allowing TestNAV to run
  • Setup Safari homepage to TestNAV home.  (For now we are using training site URL)

For these items we created a profile for the local user and host it on an internal webserver.  We purposely did not want this account to work with Profile Manager or other MDM providers to prevent any possible settings conflicts.  However, we did want a setup that was easy to implement and change as needed.  Since we knew these machines would be on and reserved for the duration of testing, this allowed for greater machine access as opposed to our normal day-to-day checkout for class-periods. Our testing setup uses three computer labs, and 7 laptop carts across our two buildings testing for a total of around 250 machines.  Further, we would be heavily involved with setup of machines to be sure each machine is ready. While the time is a bit more dedicated than our normal systems management this ensures each machine is ready; high-stakes requires high-care.

We knew our setup needed to be simple to implement on a per-device group setting.  Also, we needed it to be agile enough to work with changes as they occur and be fast to deploy. For this, we developed the following configuration process:

  • Send a login command to get all machines logged in via Apple Remote Desktop (ARD)
  • Create a .mobileconfig with settings and deploy to web-server for hosting
  • Send an ARD Unix Command to download and install the configuration profile

These three key steps allow us to configure each group of machines in about 15 seconds once they are turned on.  This also means any change can be deployed quickly and is easily reproduced.  For those of you familiar with ARD, this means changes can be applied to machines by selecting the previous command sent and clicking the “retry” button.  To help with this, two files have been posted to my github containing an install script you will need to modify with your web-server location and a .mobileconfig for the settings. In the .mobileconfig you can use a text editor to change:

  • to the final URL of your state-specific TestNAV environment
  • afp://YOURSERVER/PARCC to the location of your secondary save location for PARCC

Grab the resources from here

I hope this information is helpful when you are planning your setup and gives you some ideas.

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