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Missouri Survey Reveals Worries About Common Core Tech Burden

A lack of hardware, a lack of bandwidth, and above all, a lack of time.

Those were among the biggest concerns voiced by Missouri school administrators in a recent statewide survey taken to gauge their capacity to handle the technology requirements associated with implementing online assessments as part of the Common Core State Standards.

The Missouri Association of School Administrators recently released the results of the survey, finding that only 42 percent of district officials are confident that they have adequate technology to administer computer-based assessment in 2014-15, the year the common-core tests roll out. An additional 18 percent said they were unsure whether they have the technology they need for the testing.

The survey, based on responses from 383 of Missouri's 520 school districts, underscores the challenges facing schools, districts, and states trying to clear the anticipated tech hurdles associated with the common-core standards, which have been adopted by 46 states and the District of Columbia.

Missouri is one of those states. It is a member of the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium, one of two groups of states crafting tests to accompany the standards. Both of the consortia have released guidelines meant to explain the minimum standards districts will need to meet to give the tests smoothly and securely, making sure they have everything from having enough bandwidth to having sufficient operating systems.

Asked to identify the biggest obstacle they face in moving to online tests, the largest number of Missouri officials, 65 percent, said they were concerned with the time needed to test students. School officials are worried that their existing computer labs can't accommodate testing so many students at once, and that the availability of online instruction for other students will shrink during testing periods.

The second-biggest concern among district officials, cited by 44 percent, was that their schools don't have necessary hardware to meet upcoming testing needs. Thirty-seven percent said their schools don't have sufficient bandwidth; and 18 percent said their facilities weren't adequate to do the job.

Just 13 percent, meanwhile, said they don't anticipate any obstacles in moving toward online tests.

The survey also suggests many districts have no idea what the testing requirements will cost them. An overwhelming majority, 85 percent, said they had not conducted a study of the financial implications of implementing new technology for the exams.

Missouri districts have relied to date on their local communities to shoulder many of their school technology costs, the association said in a statement. It argued that the state needs to take on more of that load.

"Local taxpayers cannot be burdened with another unfunded mandate," Roger Kurtz, the association's executive director, said in a statement.

As we reported this week, some schools and districts are attempting to meet the common-core technology challenges by tapping a familiar source: the federal E-rate program. But the program's ability to keep up with districts' myriad tech demands associated with the common core is unclear, at best.

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