2. A backlash develops over the Common Core standards, even as school leaders prep for online testing.
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As school leaders ramped up their preparations for Common Core testing in 2014, some states and groups became more vocal in their opposition to the standards.
Critics have cited a lack of funding, manpower, poor or non-existent school infrastructure to support the online assessments that will accompany the standards, and lack of computers to deliver the assessments. Administrators and teachers have voiced their worries about not having enough time to review the standards and overhaul existing curricula with fidelity.
During the Consortium for School Networking’s 2013 national conference in San Diego, ed-tech leaders said their biggest concern was making sure their schools were prepared to roll out high-stakes testing to students online by the 2014-15 school year.
What Donna Williamson, technology director for Alabama’s Mountain Brook City Board of Education, fears most are the “unknown and unintended consequences” of moving forward with online testing at such a huge scale, she told conference attendees. She added: “We’ve never tried to test this many students online at once before.”
Her district has a 10-gigabit network backbone, but she’s still concerned. Once the students’ test responses leave the district, “there are so many things I can’t control,” she noted.
Concerns about the Common Core go well beyond the infrastructure needed to make online testing work. There was little dissent when the standards were widely adopted in 2010, but that begun changing last year—and debate picked up steam this year. The standards have divided Republicans, with former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush championing them and conservatives such as Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, opposing them.
Lawmakers and governors are reviewing the standards in Kansas, Missouri, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Georgia, Indiana, Alabama, South Carolina, and Utah. Grassley, meanwhile, persuaded eight other senators to sign onto a letter in April asking the Senate Appropriations Committee to stop the Education Department from linking adoption of the standards to eligibility for other federal dollars. That same month, the Republican National Committee passed a resolution calling the standards an “inappropriate overreach.”
In New York, among the first states to test students based on the standards, some students complained this spring that the Common Core-aligned English exams were too difficult to complete in the allotted time, and there were reports of students crying from stress.
Jonathan Butcher, education director for the Goldwater Institute, based in Phoenix, said opposition also is gaining traction because states and districts are at the point where money has to be appropriated to pay for the standards.
“As soon as states had to start spending money on the Common Core, as soon as it became a line item in the budget, people sit up and take notice,” Butcher said.
In an editorial published earlier this year, Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, called for delaying the high-stakes implications of Common Core testing until the standards have been properly implemented in schools.
“Everyone who has a responsibility for our children’s education has to take responsibility for making sure the Common Core is supported, implemented, and then evaluated correctly. That’s what making accountability real means,” she wrote.
“This is our chance—and it must be our choice—to get this right. Rhetoric about urgency can’t trump quality, equity, and sustainability.”
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