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Common Core testing will require digital literacy skills

The shift toward online exams aligned with the Common Core standards will require much more preparation than simply making sure networks can handle the extra bandwidth constraints and that schools have enough devices for every student.

It also will require students to demonstrate certain digital literacy skills that go beyond the core curriculum, observers say. These include technology operational skills such as keyboarding and spreadsheets, as well as higher-order skills such as finding and evaluating information online.

And many observers have serious concerns about whether students will be ready to take the online exams by the 2014-15 school year.

“When you look at the Common Core standards and how students are going to be assessed, the depth of knowledge and what students will be asked to do is completely different than what has been required by high-stakes testing before,” said Nick Smith, marketing manager for

In a sample question from the Smarter Balanced Assessment, students are asked to assume the role of chief of staff for a congresswoman in their state. A power company is proposing to build a nuclear plant there, and the congresswoman wants to know how she should vote. Students must search the web for information, find three credible arguments for and three against the use of nuclear power, evaluate these arguments, and write a statement either favoring or opposing the plan—using evidence to support their position.

(Next page: A “sense of urgency”)

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