MURFREESBORO, Tenn. – Giving iPads to a roomful of kindergarteners seems more like the premise of a “Saturday Night Live” skit than a serious education policy.
But the emphasis on learning technology for even the youngest students is a very real result of the new Common Core learning standards, as taxpayers in Tennessee’s Murfreesboro City school district are discovering.
Last month, Murfreesboro City Schools Director Linda Gilbert announced the district didn’t “have the devices needed” to facilitate the new Common Core standards, “or the hardware to prepare for online assessments,” according to The Daily News Journal.
In many of the 45 Common Core-aligned states, such as Tennessee, traditional paper-and-pencil testing is being replaced by computer-based assessments.
To make Common Core testing work properly, districts have to ensure that students have access to computers, and that their schools have proper Internet connections and IT infrastructure. (Some Common Core states are designing their own student assessments, partly to save money.)
The Murfreesboro City Council responded to that challenge last week by agreeing to purchase iPads for kindergarteners and first-graders and laptop computers for students in grades two through six. The city will pay for the technology infusion by issuing $5.2 million in bonds, reports The Murfreesboro Post.
The district will use some of that money to pay for technology for teachers, as well as mundane things, such as infrastructure, carts, and cases, reports The Daily News Journal.
“It’s just another price tag, and it’s pretty pricey,” admitted Vice Mayor Ron Washington during a meeting last month.
School districts all across the U.S. are scrambling to find ways to pay for the new technology and curricula materials that are required in order for their schools to be Common Core compliant.
The Pioneer Institute estimates states and school districts will have to spend roughly $16 billion to implement the new standards.
While Common Core supporters say the added costs will lead to better and “deeper” learning among students, the fact is nobody knows how the new standards will affect public education, as they’ve never been field tested anywhere in the U.S.