Are Schools ‘Tech-y’ Enough For Common Core Tests?

As the focus in education stays on the controversial Common Core, schools around the country are wondering if they are technologically prepared for CC-required exams.

There are currently two national online assessments to test students’ knowledge based on the standards set in place by the Common Core.  One of these is Smarter Balanced, which states such as California have chosen to use.  Using an online exam has caused schools to take a hard look at their use of technology in the classroom, a use that widely varies across districts.

“This is the tipping point,” said Diane Hernandez, the director of assessment development for the California Department of Education. “Schools are starting to focus on the Common Core. We’re moving away from paper and pencil tests to a completely different format and developing more skills in terms of college and career readiness. Everything is moving in the direction of more technology, and everyone is doing the best they can to prepare for that.”

Technology is lacking in many districts, causing the students to be unprepared for the changes in testing to come reports Pat Winger, writing for the Hechinger Report in the Sacramento Bee.  The state received an ‘F’on its digital report card issued by Digital Learning Now, a group who supports online learning.  Other states including Mississippi, New Jersey, and Louisiana also received ‘Fs’.  Interestingly, no state in the study received an A.

A teacher survey in Louisiana shared concerns that state schools are not technologically prepared for the online testing to come.  Seth McLaughlin of The Washington Times reports that Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal has said he will remove the Common Core standards from the state.

“I am for standards. I am for our kids learning,” the second-term governor said. “I am for our kids being able to compete, but it seems to me there is something fundamentally wrong with the bureaucrats in the federal government — especially [those] who think they know best and [that children] don’t need to listen to parents.”

This position comes under fire from the state school board and Louisiana’s State Superintendent, who supports the Common Core and would need to approve any decision to move away from it.

Teachers in the state have made complaints that the schools are not technologically prepared for online exams.  While 76% of schools do meet the state technology minimum, these same schools still fall short.  Many students do not have access to computers, which may cause problems when test day arrives, reports Julia O’Donoghue of the The Times-Picayune.

Barry Landry from the state education department has said that those not prepared for an online exam will take the test with paper and pencil.

While some states continue to fight the change, California is preparing for this shift in testing by allocating funds from a $1.2 billion grant to each district to be used better prepare by training teachers and purchasing new instructional materials.

“I can confidently say that the test is motivating schools to accelerate their efforts to transition to the Common Core,” said Sanders of the California Office to Reform Education. “And overall, the teachers seem to think it’s worthwhile and it’s testing the kinds of things the kids should be doing. The test is providing some clarity about where we’re trying to go.”