Buying iPads, Common Core Standards, and Computer-Based Testing

The tsunami of computer-based testing for public school students is on the horizon. Get ready.

For adults, computer-based testing has been around for decades. For example, I have taken and re-taken the California online test to renew my driver’s license twice in the past decade. To get certified to drive as a volunteer driver for Packard Children’s Hospital in Palo Alto, I had to read gobs of material about hospital policies and federal regulations on confidentiality before taking a series of computer-based tests. To obtain approval from Stanford University for a research project of which I am the principal investigator and where I would interview teachers and observe classrooms, I had to read online a massive amount of material on university regulations about consent of subjects to participate, confidentiality, and handling of information gotten from interviews and classroom observations.  And again, I took online tests that I had to pass in order to gain approval from the University to conduct research.  Beyond the California Department of Motor Vehicles, Children’s Hospital, and Stanford University, online assessment has been a staple in the business sector from hiring through employee evaluations.  So online testing is already part of adult experiences

What about K-12 students?  Increasingly, districts are adopting computer-based testing. For example, Measures of Academic Progress, a popular test used in many districts is online. Speeding up this adoption of computer-based testing is the Common Core Standards and the two consortia that are preparing assessments for the 45 states on the cusp of implementing the Standards. Many states have already mandated online testing for their own standardized tests to get prepared for impending national  assessments. These tests will require students to have access to a computer with the right hardware, software, and bandwidth to accommodate online testing by 2014-2015 (See here, here, and here).

There are many pros and cons with online testing as, say, compared with paper-and-pencil tests. But whatever those pros are for paper-and-pencil tests, they are outslugged and outstripped by the surge of buying new devices and piloting of computer-based tests to get ready for Common Core assessments (see here and here). Los Angeles Unified school district, the second largest in the nation, just signed a $50 million contract with Apple for  iPads. One of the key reasons to buy these devices for the initial rollout for 47 schools was Common Core standards and assessment. Each iPad comes with an array of pre-loaded software compatible with the state online testing system and impending national assessments. The entire effort is called The Common Core Technology Project.

The best (and most recent) gift to the hardware and software industry has been the Common Core standards and assessments. At a time of fiscal retrenchment in school districts across the country when schools are being closed and teachers are let go, many districts have found the funds to go on shopping sprees to get ready for the Common Core.

And here is the point that I want to make. The old reasons for buying technology have been shunted aside for a sparkling new one. Consider that for the past three decades the rationale for buying desktop computers, laptops, and now tablets has been three-fold:

1. Make schools more efficient and productive so that students learn more, faster, and better than they had before.

2. Transform teaching and learning into an engaging and active process connected to real life.

3. Prepare the current generation of young people for the future workplace.

After three decades of rhetoric and research, teachers, principals, students, and vendors have their favorite tales to prove that these reasons have been achieved. But for those who want more than Gee Whiz stories, who seek a reliable body of evidence that shows students learning more, faster, and better, that shows teaching and learning to have been transformed, that using these devices have prepared the current generations for actual jobs—well, that body of evidence is missing for each of these traditional reasons to buy computers.

With Common Core standards adopted, the rationale for getting devices has shifted. No longer does it  matter whether there is sufficient evidence to make huge expenditures on new technologies. Now, what matters are the practical problems of being technologically ready for the new standards and tests in 2014-2015: getting more hardware, software, additional bandwidth, technical assistance, professional development for teachers, and time in the school day to let students practice taking tests.

Whether the Common Core standards will improve student achievement–however measured–whether students learn more, faster, and better–none of this matters in deciding on which vendor to use. It is not whether to buy or not. The question is: how much do we have and when can we get the devices. That is tidal wave on the horizon.

About these ads

17 Comments

Filed under technology, testing

17 responses to “Buying iPads, Common Core Standards, and Computer-Based Testing

  1. Reblogged this on The Echo Chamber and commented:
    From the US. The “Common Core” is their new curriculum.

  2. Mr. Cuban, I’d like to talk with you about these issues – David F. Carr, InformationWeek Education david.carr@ubm.com

  3. With the preponderance of online resources offering tutorial videos, exercises, textbooks, assessments, and etcetera, coupled with the confluence of our school adopting the Common Core State Standards and a block schedule, I decided to pursue reason #2: “Transform teaching and learning into an engaging and active process connected to real life” for my algebra 1 course. Many, if not most, of my students have not succeeded in a traditional, direct instruction centric system. Whether a student driven, blended learning approach will radically improve their outcomes is unknown. At the same time, I cannot continue in good faith teaching in a method I know will not serve the majority of my students. Wish me luck!

    http://mathequality.wordpress.com/2013/07/10/proposal-for-a-student-driven-blended-learning-based-common-core-aligned-algebra-1-course/

  4. Pingback: Buying iPads, Common Core Standards, and Compu...

  5. Dit is op From experience to meaning… herblogden reageerde:
    Als usual a good piece by Larry Cuban:
    “After three decades of rhetoric and research, teachers, principals, students, and vendors have their favorite tales to prove that these reasons have been achieved. But for those who want more than Gee Whiz stories, who seek a reliable body of evidence that shows students learning more, faster, and better, that shows teaching and learning to have been transformed, that using these devices have prepared the current generations for actual jobs—well, that body of evidence is missing for each of these traditional reasons to buy computers.”

  6. Really worrying trend Larry which I suspect we will soon see this side of the pond with Pearson and News Corporation turing the theory of Moe and Chubb in “Liberating Learning” (was there ever a more ironic title for a book?) into the reality of childrens learning?

  7. GM

    Larry, ultimately while Common Core may not have a proven track record just yet (and may never achieve the promise of improved outcomes such as other ambitious programs that have failed such as NCLB) and is driving massive expenditures of precious limited resources during these lean times, I suspect the end game plan is to force schools into accelerated EdTech adoption (hardware, software, infrastructure, PD, new skills sets & learning methodologies).

    No doubt this will be painful, expensive, & disruptive to many who cling to the current bureaucracies and ineffective methods that are failing our children and society. Something clearly must be done now to improve our education system to ensure the economic future and viability of our country and citizenry. If these purchases/changes becomes a catalyst for a new wave of improved learning & teaching then it will be worth it in the end.

    Only time will tell if our educators embrace the challenge and opportunity to figure out ways that take advantage of these tools to effect real outcome improvements beyond standardized assessment efficiencies. I certainly hope so.

  8. Pingback: Technology, Progressive Education, and Diane Ravitch’s Reign of Error

  9. Pingback: Pay attention to who really benefits from the Common Core | digital.literacies

  10. Pingback: Tracing the Common Core in Michigan | Digital Writing, Digital Teaching

  11. Cheryl Martin

    Yes, whether we like it or not, computer-based testing for K-12 students is here. My experience with computer-based assessments has been challenging. Last school year, 2012-2013, we began using Renaissance Learning STAR assessments and this year we added the Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) assessments. Our administration chose to do computer-based assessments, in part, so that by the time 2014-2015 gets here, we will be ready for the Common Core Smarter Balance assessment. We contracted with our IT person to upgrade our network so that we would have enough bandwidth to run multiple testing sessions at one time in our 30 station computer lab. We also installed wireless routers throughout the school to prepare for the future purchase of a cart of laptop computers, a necessity for the increase in computer usage. After the initial setup, making sure each computer had the correct software installed and uploading our student roster to the testing sites, we trained our teachers how to give the assessments and retrieve the data on their students. Some of the challenging things we have had to deal with are the length of time it took to upload our student roster, scheduling and loss of instruction time, and various tech problems during testing (on our end and on the testing site’s end).
    With all that being said, one of the greatest challenges I have is that I am not sure that I agree that these computer-based assessments belong in K-12 education. As a teacher, what I see during testing sessions are many of my students struggling to read and understand concepts that they have not been taught nor had very much exposure to in their classrooms. These tests don’t really seem as adaptive to each student’s abilities or to their unique learning styles. Are they really an accurate measure of what a student knows? Perhaps authentic assessments, for example, open-ended questions, written compositions, oral presentations, projects, portfolios of student work, are a better way for a teacher to gauge students’ understanding of the material being taught. These types of assessment are designed by the teacher so that the content of the assessment matches the content of the instruction. These are the kinds of assessments that I will continue to use with my students so that I can assess them as individual and unique learners. As for computer-based assessments in K-12 education, I will continue to be apprehensive about their use as a means to measure what a student knows.

    • larrycuban

      Cheryl,
      I found your description of computer-based testing, the preparations, and actual operation plus your reactions to all of this frank and realistic. Thank you very much.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s