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Burbank school officials: Worry lingers over Common Core tests

Officials question whether district has the computers for Common Core exams.

September 11, 2013|By Kelly Corrigan, kelly.corrigan@latimes.com

The Burbank Unified school board adopted a $3-million plan last week to implement Common Core state standards. But concerns are being raised over whether the district owns enough computers to handle the hours of testing the students will undergo in the spring of 2015 as district students, along with those in more than 9,000 schools statewide, leave behind the academic standards that California adopted in 1997.

According to state educators, the new standards will encourage students to use critical thinking to analyze, research and write about non-literary texts and apply mathematics to real-world problem solving.

In the months ahead, school officials will examine whether they need to install more computers to accommodate students as they take the exams.

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School board member Larry Applebaum said principals at about six Burbank schools have voiced concerns over a lack of computer lab space and wondered whether more state funds should be put toward additional computers.

“In some of these schools, you're rotating a lot of kids through and you're talking about tests that are several hours long,” he said. “There seems to be a lot of concern.”

Burbank Unified Supt. Jan Britz said the district's technology department has already anticipated how many more computers will be needed at school sites before students take the exams in 2015.

To help inform the public about the tests, Burbank Unified officials have provided a link to sample test questions on the district's website. 

When students take the exam in 2015, the test will adapt to their knowledge level.

If a student chooses the wrong answer to a question, the test will respond with an easier one. A student's correct answer will spur a more challenging question. Once students repeatedly respond correctly to questions at a certain difficulty level, evaluators will know that is their top performance.

The Burbank school board last week also approved construction of a new data center that will hold twice the amount of equipment the district currently uses to power its computer network. That step is seen as preliminary as Burbank Unified prepares to expand its technology.

School officials plan to spend about $2.3 million so teachers can attend conferences and collaborate with others who teach at their same grade level as they write a new Common Core curriculum.

Sharon Cuseo, director of instruction and accountability for Burbank Unified, said the district keeps working to gear up for the changes.

“I think, overall, everybody's excited about [the new standards] because they represent a significant shift and a more rigorous, thoughtful curriculum that teachers have been asking for a long time,” she said. “However, it does create some anxiety because it is upon us.”

The district will pay about $200,000 for teachers' materials such as workbooks and posters.

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Follow Kelly Corrigan on Twitter: @kellymcorrigan.

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