Top 10 ed-tech stories of 2013, No. 2: Common Core testing, backlash

eSchool News counts down the ten most significant developments in educational technology during the past year. Number 2? It’s all about Common Core.

Common-CoreIn school systems from coast to coast, tech-savvy educators experimented with augmented reality, educational gaming, and other techniques designed to enhance teaching and learning.

These are only some of the key ed-tech developments affecting K-12 schools in the past year—and we’ve got a full recap for you.

Here, the editors of eSchool News highlight what we think are the 10 most significant ed-tech stories of 2013.

To learn how these stories have made an impact on K-12 schools this year—and how they will continue to shape education in 2014 and beyond—read on.

(Next page: Common Core gains supporters and protesters)

2. A backlash develops over the Common Core standards, even as school leaders prep for online testing.

Click here to access a PDF of all Top 10 stories.

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.”

See also:

How to prepare for Common Core testing—and why current teacher evaluation systems won’t help

Ed-tech leaders brace for online testing


How the Common Core is redefining math instruction


Common Core testing will require digital literacy skills


Editorial: Make the Common Core standards work before making them count


How the Common Core standards are changing reading instruction


Backlash over Common Core State Standards


Separating fact from fiction about the Common Core standards


A key priority for ed-tech leaders: Meeting Common Core needs


4 reasons why the Common Core Standards are losing popularity


Report: Public fuzzy on Common Core State Standards


States worried about Common Core tests


Can school networks handle Common Core demands?


Florida’s blow to Common Core


What will Common Core assessments cost states?


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