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Missouri Schools Need Technology Upgrade

January 14, 2013

Missouri public schools are in dire need of a significant upgrade in technology to meet the needs of students and the testing requirements of the state of Missouri.  “Missouri schools have gone for a decade now without receiving state funding for technology improvements,” said Roger Kurtz, Executive Director of the Missouri Association of School Administrators (MASA).

“For the past ten years, Missouri schools have relied upon local taxpayers to finance computer purchases, facility upgrades and connectivity improvements,” Kurtz said.  “With recent cuts to the transportation funding and early childhood education, the elimination of the career ladder program and an underfunded foundation formula, it is difficult for school districts to find resources to make needed technology upgrades.  Funding also has been cut in recent years for MOREnet, the primary Internet service provider for Missouri schools.

“It is time for the state of Missouri to put together a sustainable technology investment program for our schools,” Kurtz said.  “We need to provide technology equity among schools and we need to provide our teachers with quality professional development on how to effectively use new technologies in the classroom.”

Beginning with the 2014-15 school year, the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) is requiring Missouri school districts to use computer–based state assessments for students in grades three through eleven.  A recent technology survey conducted by MASA indicates that there are numerous issues that need to be resolved.  A total of 383 of the 520 Missouri school districts participated in the survey. Only 13% of Missouri school districts responding to the survey indicated that they had no obstacles related to computer-based assessments.  A complete copy of the technology survey is available at this link:MASA Technology Survey.

“One of the biggest concerns expressed by school administrators is the time issue,” Kurtz said.  “The computer labs in most schools are not designed to accommodate a large number of students for a lengthy period.  A secondary concern is that the computer-based testing requirement will have an impact on the overall instructional program when all computers, bandwidth and facilities are no longer available for other classes during the testing window.”

Other issues identified by respondents to the survey include bandwidth requirements, hardware issues, and facility issues.  Many administrators responding to the survey also raised concerns regarding keyboarding skills for students in grades three through six.  Many are concerned that younger students will become frustrated with the technology assessment and the resulting scores will be more of a reflection of computer skills rather than content knowledge.

“If DESE is going to require school districts to have the technology in place to provide computer-based testing, then the state is going to have to find a way to provide Missouri school districts with significant funding for technology improvements and on-going upgrades in the future.  Local taxpayers can not be burdened with another unfunded mandate,” Kurtz said.

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