Wednesday, February 19, 2014

The Computer Canard and Testing in California Schools

Many California school districts are rushing to spend money to add computers and internet access to schools in order to prepare students to take on-line computer assessments next year.
According to Diane Lambert in the Sacramento Bee, of Feb.19,  “Sacramento-area school districts have spent millions of dollars in the past two years upgrading their broadband connections and buying computers and other technology so thousands of students can simultaneously take the California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress, which will replace the former pencil-and-paper STAR test.
The computerized tests will measure how well students grasp the new Common Core standards, a set of national guidelines that California and 44 other states have embraced as the next big shift in teaching. “ Common Core  claims to stress  critical thinking, problem solving and the use of technology.”

Lets get real. Computers can and should be an important part of student learning, particularly above about grade 3.  But, buying massive amounts of technology in order to facilitate test taking- well that is another matter. The K-12 education software market in the U.S. reached 7.97 billion in 2011/2012.


There is serious research on when and how computers help in a school.  For example, they usually help middle class schools more than low income schools.  And to use computer technology for learning, rather than just for testing, districts need to allocate a significant amount of funds for teacher in-service preparation.  Usually about 30% of technology funds should go to teacher in-service if you want the computers used for collaboration and critical thinking.
(See for example the work of Mark, Warschauer, Professor and Associate Dean of Education and Director of the Digital Learning Lab, UC Irvine.)
There are important issues to discuss related to Common Core.  Please see prior posts.  And there are important issues of the  corporate school reform crowd using their reduced view of reform as a means to sell more products – such as computers and software.  This is not democratic reform- it is technology sales.
For background on these issues go to https://sites.google.com/site/democracyandeducationorg/
The Bee article reports,
“School Internet access varies across the county. San Juan Unified has installed a wireless access point in every classroom and continues to install access points to increase capacity. Folsom Cordova Unified has Internet access at each school site but is still working on installing wireless at five of its schools. “
To check your school’s access to computers go to the Sacramento Bee article.
Also see this: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/03/03/education/new-all-digital-curriculums-hope-to-ride-high-tech-push-in-schoolrooms.html


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