As 45 states and the District of Columbia finished their second year of Common Core State Standards implementation, a number of them foresee technology challenges with online assessments, according to a new report released on Wednesday.
The study from the Center on Education Policy found that providing enough computers and sufficient Internet bandwidth are among the issues states face as they continue to implement the voluntary standards. The standards were finalized in 2010 and spell out the knowledge and skills that pre-kindergarten- through 12th-grade students need.
Two state consortiums received grants to create new assessment systems based on the standards. In the 2014-15 academic year, states in both the PARCC and SMARTER Balanced Assessment consortia will start giving these assessments.
States have an enormous amount of work to do to implement these standards, including bringing teachers and administrators up to speed and changing curriculum to align with the standards, said Nancy Kober, a consultant with the Center on Education Policy and a co-author of the report. Because of these other aspects, the technical challenges haven't received much attention until recently.
But in a Common Core survey commissioned by the Center on Education Policy and conducted between October and December, the center asked states whether five technical issues pose a challenge for them. Thirty-five states and the District of Columbia responded to the survey, and 33 answered at least one of the technology-related questions. The center did not release the names of the states that participated.
States see some of these issues as an obstacle, while others say it’s too soon to tell.
1. Computers for students
Twenty states cited the number of computers they could provide as a major challenge, while four said it posed a minor challenge. Six other states said it's too soon to tell, and three said it wasn't a challenge.
"It's only becoming clear to states that if these assessments are to be computer-based and computer administered, then they might not be up to speed on that," Kober said.
2. Adequate Internet access and bandwidth
Six states don't have a problem providing enough Internet access and bandwidth. But 25 others responded that this would prove challenging for them.
3. Technical support from the state education agency
During testing, the availability of state education agency support doesn't pose a challenge for six states, while 21 states cited this as a challenge. Six states said they would have to wait and see.
In tight budgetary times, state education agency staff members are spread thin.
"It's just one example of areas where with implementation of the standards, states are going to need more expertise and perhaps more staffing," Kober said.
4. Technical support from schools and districts
At the local level, 22 states cited technical expertise as a major or minor challenge when issues come up in the testing process. Eight states said they couldn't tell yet whether this would be a stumbling block.
5. Security measures to lock out cheating
Unlike the other obstacles, only five states see security measures as a major challenge, while 16 said it's a minor challenge. Two states said this doesn't present a challenge, while seven said it's too soon to tell.
Of the states that viewed one of these five technology issues as a major challenge, 10 created a plan to tackle them, but 16 haven't. And that could pose a problem because the new assessments will be ready in two years, Kober said.
Over the next two years, they'll have to figure out how to address these technical challenges and others that may arise, Kober said. Once they see what the assessments look like, they'll have a better idea of what they need to do.