Common Core testing sparks worry about IT gaps.
Kevin Mcguire has no idea how his Indiana district will get enough computers to administer the Common Core tests to Michigan City Area's 6,700 students by 2014-15.
"This is another underfunded mandate, with the government asking more and more and giving less and less," the district's technology director says. "We're fine with bandwidth infrastructure but we don't have the money to put hardware in the hands of all our students."
McGuire is not alone. Keith Krueger, CEO of the Consortium of School Networking (CoSN), says school technology leaders are "very concerned about being IT-ready" for the Common Core assessments. Most schools, suffering from a lack of federal tech funds, are not investing enough to meet the deadline, he says.
At this point, it's a wait-and-see game. As of June 30, the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers and the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium had gathered school IT inventory data from all but five states. After the numbers are crunched, the consortia will know what resources states and districts have, what they need, and where the gaps are.
The state of Maine is more prepared than most for a boost in online testing because its one-to-one state laptop initiative now includes nearly all students from seventh through 12th grade. And with elementary schools snapping up MacBooks for $50 apiece after state leases expire, 177 schools now have more laptops than students, according to Jeff Mao, Maine's learning technology policy director.
"We are in a fantastic position," Mao says. "We have no significant worries from a technology standpoint."
Rich Kaestner, a CoSN project director, fears that the push for more online testing will reverse the trend toward BYOD and prompt schools to go backward technologically by reinstituting computer labs.
Douglas Levin, executive director of the State Educational Technology Directors Association, doesn't share Kaestner's worry but agrees that mobile and wireless technologies are preferable to computer labs. He says that possible options include Apple's "Guided Access" for the iPad, Google Chromebooks, and Neverware's Juicebox, which extends the capabilities of outdated PCs.
Pamela Derringer is a contributing writer for Scholastic Adminstr@tor magazine.