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Florida's PARCC: Cold Feet in a Hot State

It appears that Florida has gotten cold feel with regard to its participation in the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC). July 17, two top Florida legislators sent a letter to the Commissioner of Florida's Department of Education recommending that the Commissioner "move forward with a Florida Plan by immediately withdrawing from the assessment portion of PARCC."

Ouch.

Why? Several reasons are cited (e.g., testing will take more than 20 days) but here let's focus on the technology: "neither districts nor the state can realistically achieve the minimum bandwidth and a 2:1 ratio by the anticipated 2014-2015 school year full implementation of PARCC."

"For School Year 2012-13 — the standard is 2.75 students to 1 computer." Interestingly, the National Center for Educational Statistics shows the ratio of students to computers in 2008 as 3.1-to-1. 2008 is the latest date for which NCES is providing data. In 2000 the ratio was 6.6-to-1 then in 2005 it significantly dropped to 3.8-to-1. While Queensland has reached 1:1 for grades 9 to 12 (where is Queensland?), and while ISTE advocates going 1:1, not much progress has been made since 2008 — even though the cost of computing devices has plummeted! (The $100 computer, surely adequate for 1:1 in K-8, is here already. Oooops! But those $100 computers do NOT meet PARCC minimal hardware requirements.)

After a recent presentation in Ohio we talked at length with a tech director about PARCC and the demands it will place on schools' infrastructures. He said, after ensuring that we wouldn't print his name, that in recent years statewide testing in Ohio hadn't gone all that well in his district, e.g., bandwidth was nowhere near enough to handle the crush during testing periods and servers were nowhere near able to keep up with the storage requests that could get through. He assured us that his experiences were not unique. And, he was worried, like Florida, about the increased demands that the PARCC testing would place on the schools' already over-taxed technology infrastructure.

A Google search of "ratio of students to computers" turns up surprisingly little — except that the state of Florida has its technology stats in order! Florida has this "Florida Readiness Gauge" that assesses "each school district by the six CCSS (Common Core State Standards) readiness indicators and the six digital learning readiness indicators as summarized by school level (Elementary, Middle, and High)..." Google (or Bing) didn't show us a comparable chart for any other state.

As THE Journal has reported: "Fourteen states and the District of Columbia confirmed this week that they are "committed" to field testing the PARCC assessments. This is a major step on the way to deploying the English language arts (ELA)/literacy and math tests to all of PARCC's member state schools in time for the 2014-2015 deadline.... However, that count is a dramatic drop from the coalition of 24 states and administrative divisions that originally made up the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC)" Stay tuned; this story is not finished!

About the Authors

Cathie Norris is a Regents Professor in the Department of Learning Technologies, School of Information at the University of North Texas. Visit her site at www.intergalacticmlc.org.

Elliot Soloway is an Arthur F. Thurnau Professor in the Department of CSE, College of Engineering, at the University of Michigan. Visit his site at www.intergalacticmlc.org.

Find more from Elliot Soloway and Cathie Norris at their Being Mobile blog at thejournal.com/beingmobile.

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