The SMARTER Balanced Assessment Consortium and the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) today announced they have awarded a contract to Pearson to develop a new Technology Readiness Tool to support states as they transition to next-generation assessments. This new open source tool, with the assistance of the State Educational Technology Directors Association (SETDA), will support state education agencies as they work with local education agencies to evaluate and determine needed technology and infrastructure upgrades for the new online assessments to be launched by the two consortia in the 2014-15 school year. "Online assessments offer states and school districts clear advantages, including expanded item types, timely feedback to inform instruction, and improved accommodations for students with special needs," said Joe Willhoft, Executive Director of SMARTER Balanced. "To be successful, however, careful planning and management of the transition process is a must. That’s why both consortia are working with state and local education leaders from around the country to develop this new, free tool to help states facilitate the evaluation of current technology and infrastructure for online testing." SMARTER Balanced and PARCC both received grants from the federal Race to the Top Assessment Program to work with states to create next-generation, comprehensive assessment systems. The development of the Technology Readiness Tool is one component of their initiatives to establish infrastructure and content for common online assessments. Intended to launch in spring 2012, the tool will be developed using open source technology, allowing the consortia free access to the source code. Data will be collected twice annually through 2014 to provide updated information on technology and infrastructure readiness. "Navigating any type of educational change is a complicated process and the move to online assessments brings with it great opportunities and unique challenges," said Laura Slover, Senior Vice President at Achieve, which is the project management partner for the PARCC consortium. "Both test consortia are focused on providing the tools and resources to remove any potential roadblocks for states as they move through the transition process."