Incident IQ

K-12 Workflow Management Blog

IT Prep for K-12 State Testing

Article Contents

For school IT teams, year-end state testing ranks among the annual calendar’s biggest priorities. With digital delivery formats having long since replaced paper-based testing, every student needs a fully functional device to ensure a fair and frictionless testing process. This requires teams in charge of district-wide IT to prioritize device prep for K-12 state testing accordingly.

The stakes are high. If a student does not test for any reason—including a faulty device—they will typically be counted as not meeting the standard. As American University’s School of Education notes, standardized test scores have a strong and direct impact on graduation, school funding, and other important educational and institutional outcomes.

Given these realities, schools have strong and pressing incentives to use every available tool for making test day a success. “The biggest thing is testing,” says Incident IQ Customer Success Manager Edwin Walker. “In any county, testing runs the county. Having devices in the hands of students is priority number one. Making sure testing is ready and able to be done is number two.”

Edwin speaks from experience. Prior to joining Incident IQ, he worked for the DeKalb County School District, where he managed IT deployments, testing set-up, and testing readiness.

During his time with the DeKalb County School District, Edwin witnessed the transition from lab-based setups to 1:1 technology deployments. While they pose numerous challenges and do not entirely succeed in addressing digital divides among students, 1:1 models represent a good-faith effort to create equitable access to learning technologies.

With respect to state testing, IT teams must meet several key 1:1 computing requirements relating to:

  • Device auditing and inventory management
  • Individual device prep
  • Firmware and operating systems
  • Day-of-testing prep
  • Managing spare devices and charging equipment

Edwin shares his thoughts regarding each of these factors.

Device Auditing and Inventory Management

Device audits, which identify and track all devices assigned to students, form an integral part of IT inventory management in K-12 schools. Auditing processes must cover device statuses, locations, and functionality.

First, “You need to make sure that the students have the devices,” Edwin says. “Maybe they haven’t brought it to school in a while. It’s under the bed somewhere. It’s lost or stolen. It may even be out for repair in your own department. You don’t want to wait until that last day and find out a student doesn’t actually have a device.”

Incident IQ uses a Smart Audit system, which speeds up and simplifies the device auditing and verification processes. Smart Audits use recent login data to verify devices, which then works in tandem with streamlined physical verification tools to reduce an IT audit’s time requirements. 

IT teams and school administrators also need a plan for addressing missing, damaged, or non-operational devices on test day. By following proven best practices for conducting a district-wide device audit, schools can prepare backup device inventories and other emergency supports with greater accuracy and precision. This will ensure no student is without a device on test day.

Prepping Individual Devices

On test day, all individual devices must be ready to meet performance requirements. In broad terms, this involves:

  • Updating operating systems
  • Ensuring device compatibility with testing software
  • Verifying power supplies, keyboard integrity, and other essential functionalities

Testing environments also demand thorough firmware management and standardized kiosk mode setups, which lock students into testing software and prevent them from accessing external applications. These crucial steps protect testing integrity and security, ensuring all devices operate under identical conditions while eliminating any possibility of unauthorized data modification.

Managing Firmware and OS Updates

Incident IQ’s IT asset management tools make it easy and efficient for school districts to manage firmware and OS updates across large device inventories. With just a few clicks, users can:

  • Track all the OS versions currently installed on student-assigned devices
  • Identify devices in need of firmware and/or OS updates
  • Create simplified and streamlined lists of devices requiring updating or servicing

Incident IQ supports these features on multiple customizable levels. Users can obtain a district-wide view, generate school-specific lists, or apply filters to narrow down results by device type, school type, or dozens of other criteria.

Users can then export the reports as Excel spreadsheets, facilitating easy and compatible distribution. “If everybody is on the Incident IQ platform, you can also share a custom view with other users,” Edwin notes. 

Incident IQ’s custom views automatically update by synching with the mobile device management (MDM) platform as technicians complete the necessary upgrades. Edwin describes this feature as a “great way to loop in those stakeholders. Your team can just keep an eye on that view until you’ve got all your devices updated.”

Day-of-Testing Preparation

Schools should distribute alerts to parents so they can remind their children to bring their device with them on test day. Utilize multiple media when sending alerts, including:

  • Email
  • Text messaging
  • Social media platforms

Also, deliver multiple alerts on staggered schedules. This strategy maximizes the visibility and timeliness of the messaging while reinforcing its importance.

Next, ensure adequate backup computing resources are available to students on test day. These should include spare devices, chargers, and charging stations to help students and test administrators deal with unexpected situations like device malfunctions and loss of battery power.

“One big thing that we found is that kids do not charge their devices at night,” Edwin recalls. “They’ll come to school and the device is dead the minute they open it. So we set up extension cords with blocks of chargers throughout the classroom.”

Beyond setting up charging stations in classrooms, schools can also equip lockers and other common areas with extra charging infrastructure during test time. This ease of access dramatically reduces the likelihood of a student losing critical minutes to device downtime during a test.

Students are already under stress on test day. A proactive approach to resource management helps mitigate computing-related anxieties, which may ultimately help them perform better.

Managing Spare Devices

The Incident IQ platform offers a dashboard view of spare device availability and utilization throughout educational sites district-wide. This feature, known as Spare Pool, makes it easy to:

  • Check spare devices in and out
  • Monitor device levels and spare device distribution 
  • Efficiently designate and manage groups of spare devices

With Spare Pool, users can also apply additional filters for device types, features, usage histories, locations, and more. These features provide a granular view of available computing resources and key information related to their deployment, equipping technicians and school administrators with accurate counts of surplus devices available..

Detailed tracking of spare devices helps schools ensure their computing resources are properly allocated on test day. This, in turn, minimizes or eliminates the number of students who cannot test for IT-related reasons.

Final Thoughts: IT Prep for K-12 State Testing Is a Year-Round Task

“Do not think about test preparedness as only an end-of-the-year thing,” Edwin stresses. “Think about it at the beginning of the year, when students are coming in and you’re about to issue tests to evaluate them. Think about it right after Christmas break. When they come back, you’ll want to do your second evaluation.”

“End-of-the-year testing is the most critical one because it’s the one that counts,” Edwin says. “But if you set up a plan going into the year, it will help you towards the end of the year.”

Incident IQ’s powerful IT auditing, device prep, and resource management tools are a powerful ally in planning for end-of-year state testing. “Incident IQ helped my last district and it helped me in my school IT management career,” Edwin says.

Optimize IT prep for K-12 state testing year in and year out. Get to know the Incident IQ platform and its robust lineup of asset and facility management, ticketing, and HR service delivery features.