The Common Core, digital transformation, and the Kasich budget proposal

Starting in the 2014-15 school year, Ohio’s schools will fully implement the Common Core State Standards and the PARCC exams--online assessments aligned to the Common Core. As the Buckeye State draws nearer to lift off for these new academic standards and tests, school districts are ratcheting up their technological infrastructure and capacity.

Consider a few recent examples of how schools are improving their technological infrastructure in advance of the Common Core and the PARCC exams:

  • The Akron Beacon Journal reported that the Akron Public Schools recently approved $300,000 plus in spending to upgrade its computer software and Internet bandwidth. These improvements will ensure that its students are able to take the online PARCC exams.
  • Meanwhile on the other side of the Buckeye State, The Lima News reported that Delphos and Ottawa-Glandorf school districts, both located in rural Northwest Ohio, have purchased new computers to ensure that their students will be able to take the PARCC exams.
  • Finally, in rural Southeast Ohio, The Marietta Times reported that Morgan Local School District has been piloting Thinkgate. Teachers at Morgan Local will use this digital instructional system to provide real-time feedback to students about how well they are progressing toward meeting the learning expectations of the Common Core.  

In addition to these local efforts, the governor’s budget proposal (see page D-180) also takes steps to improve technology as schools transition to the Common Core and the PARCC exams. In the state’s student assessment line-item, the governor proposes a $20 million (38 percent) increase from FY 2013 to FY 2015. In addition, the Kasich budget proposal includes a one-time $10 million investment in FY 2014 to help schools improve their Internet connectivity and broadband, so that students can take the online PARCC exams. Finally, the Kasich budget proposal includes a $300 million Innovation Fund, competitive grants that could be used to improve school technology.

Yes, the changes related to the Common Core are costly and, as the Cincinnati Enquirer has reported, several school leaders have lamented this fact. But, Ohio mustn’t neglect nor penny-pinch its way toward a twenty-first century educational system. (Though, if done smartly, local and state leaders can successfully implement these changes, while holding the line on spending.) Moreover, as time passes, the long-term benefits of this system-wide overhaul in academic standards and classroom technology should eventually surpass these start-up costs. And, of course, the cost of transitioning to the Common Core is surely less than doing nothing at all. For, as a state, Ohio can’t afford to give its youngsters any more opportunities to languish beneath low academic expectations and outdated technology. 

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