Common Core, costly

The Cincinnati Enquirer has an article pointing to the logistical and expensive costs ahead to implement the Common Core Curriculum, which is set to begin in earnest in 2014. One of the first major hurdles is having the requisite infrastructure in place to accommodate the millions of computer based tests that will occur.

The new tests will be taken online, replacing the standardized No. 2 pencil-and-paper tests that Ohio schools have always used.

While local school leaders like the idea of online testing, the switch is also creating concern because it's unclear who's going to pay for the computers and software upgrades needed for the new system. District officials worry the state will pass costs onto local districts - and their taxpayers. That's something many districts fear they won't be able to afford.

At a time when requests for new school levies are proving difficult to pass, and Columbus is keen to abrogate its responsibility to funding public education, additional costs like this are sure to hit districts up and down the state hard. Not only will schools need to significantly boost their IT hardware spending, but the level of IT infrastructure needed to support these new testing requirements will also require on going IT support to keep it all running smoothly.

Without additional computers or greater wireless capability, the new tests shrink the number of computers available for remedial classes and other kinds of instruction, Farmer said.

"We'd be very much in trouble if they expect us to do all that (testing) online," he said.

Northwest voters, like Cincinnati's, rejected a combination bond issue/operating levy this month that would have paid to renovate the high schools and improve technology.

With the selection of the consortia Partnership for the Assessment of Readiness for College and Career (PARCC), Ohio might also expect to test its students even more.

Instead of tests once a year, the new tests will probably be taken at least twice a year, said Dennis Evans, an Ohio Department of Education spokesman.

With each of these millions of tests costing at least $14 each, it's not just the cost of IT infrastructure that needs to be contended with anymore.

Whatever the merits of these policies as tools to increase educational quality, it is clear that Ohio is going to need to find a way to invest more readily in these transitional efforts.