Oct 17, 2012 by

[10.17.12 – Comments from Donna Garner — What this article, “Are You Tech Ready for the Common Core?” has overlooked is the fact that the Common Core tests will not just be given once a year for a limited number of days. For students to be prepared to take the type of online, interactive, summative assessments (e.g., end-of course, end-of-year, scores used for accountability) that the two consortia (SMARTER and PARCC) are planning, the students will be required to practice all year, taking frequent formative assessments (e.g., practice tests). That means districts cannot get by with renting technology devices just for a few weeks per school year but will have to provide all students with those technology devices all year long. That will cost state taxpayers “big bucks.”

To read about the extensive costs that will fall upon states’ taxpayers in the 45+ states that have committed to the Common Core, please go to the article published by Henry W. Burke on 10.15.12 entitled “States’ Taxpayers Cannot Afford Common Core Standards” —



10.17.12 —



Published Online: October 15, 2012


Are You Tech-Ready for the Common Core?


—Chris Whetzel_for Digital Directions

By Michelle R. Davis


Excerpts from this article:


School districts are raising concerns about their ability to be technologically ready to give Common Core State Standards assessments to students online in two years.



Administrators say they remain uncertain about the types of devices to buy, the bandwidth they need, and the funding available for technology improvements.



An initial round of data collection launched to determine technology gaps for schools preparing for the common-core online assessments has so far had limited participation from districts and many states. And state and national education groups are detecting a rising level of anxiety among school and district leaders regarding the technology they feel is necessary to implement online testing by the 2014-15 deadline.



Some districts “are panicked about getting ready for it, but some are not even in a place where they know enough to be panicked yet,” says Ann Flynn, the director of educational technology for the Alexandria, Va.-based National School Boards Association. “I won’t say they’re in denial, but it’s going to be a real challenge for a lot of districts.”



Superintendent Kaylin Coody of Oklahoma’s 1,800-student Hilldale school system says her district doesn’t have the staff or technology it will need to implement the common-core assessments. For example, though the district’s elementary school has 400 students, the building has only 43 computers.



“With the current financial constraints facing Oklahoma public schools, I do not see how most of us will be able to provide adequate hardware and prepare staff to manage the level of testing being planned, especially in a short testing window,” Coody writes in an e-mail.



The vast majority of states have adopted the new standards in English/language arts and mathematics and have also signed on to provide online testing under the standards starting in the 2014-15 school year. Two consortia received federal funding to create online tests; both intend to use technology for interactive test questions, simulations, new graphics, and faster exam results.



The two groups—the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium and the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, or PARCC—are also in the process of sketching out the technology standards schools will need for the assessment process. Both consortia have released some technology guidelines that call for having specific technologies in place, such as computing devices that have at least 1 gigabyte of computer memory, a screen display size of 9.5 inches or greater, and access to the Internet.



…Louisiana, though, took the data collection one step further…the state’s own estimates of how long the testing window is likely to be and how many hours the testing may take, Louisiana estimated schools would need a 7-to-1 ratio of students to devices.



The state found its schools have 197,898 devices available for online testing, but only 67,038 met new device standards, which excluded machines using Windows XP, for example, since Microsoft has said it plans to stop supporting the program. Only five districts met the minimum device-readiness requirements, and only two districts met both the device- and network-readiness guidelines for online testing, says Carol Mosley, the K-12 E-rate director and a management consultant for the Louisiana Department of Education.



‘Source of Anxiety’


The reality is there’s a vast range of common-core technology readiness among states. Some already do their state assessments online; others still use paper and pencil…


“Some districts haven’t dipped their toe into online testing, and they are really, really hesitant,” says Melissa Fincher, Georgia’s associate superintendent for assessment and accountability…


In neighboring Tennessee, the assistant commissioner for curriculum and instruction, Emily Barton, predicts that inadequate bandwidth and devices will be two big technology problems for schools.


…Since schools still do not know how long the common-core tests will take to administer, it’s hard to determine the number of devices that might be needed.



Some of those uncertainties are causing problems for school districts in South Dakota, says Jim Holbeck, the superintendent of the state’s 3,000-student Harrisburg district, who is also president of the School Administrators of South Dakota and the South Dakota School Superintendents Association. Schools still aren’t sure which devices to buy, but want to make sure students are familiar with using those devices well before they have to take the online common assessments, he says.



“Our fear is, are we going to have a test that accurately shows what our kids know, or will the results be unreliable because the kids are taking it in a different format?” he says.



In addition, bandwidth is a huge concern for districts, Holbeck says. The state provides a minimum level of bandwidth, he adds, “but if we want more, we have to pay for it,” and school budgets have little extra money.



In Washington state, Raj Manhas, the superintendent of the 14,000-student North Thurston schools, says districts must turn to the voters for approval on tax levies for technology purchases. Twice in recent years, voters have rejected technology levies for his district.



A general fund levy was approved, however, and Manhas is using part of that money to buy new devices for the common core. But he’s concerned about the “technology gap” between districts that serve wealthier communities and districts with lower-income families.

While he fully supports the concept of common standards, Manhas says that “sometimes when national policies are made, the corresponding resources are not planned for.”



Education Week Assistant Editor Catherine Gewertz contributed to this article.

Vol. 06, Issue 01, Pages 21-23


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