A new survey of Louisiana schools reveals a critical issue facing most states nationwide: schools are lacking the technology needed to conduct online testing required by the Common Core State Standards.
Although the looming requirement that all testing be conducted online has been discussed, the degree to which states are unprepared has not been known. And only five school systems meet the requirements.
Under the standards, English language arts and math curricula will be tested online to give standardized and intense feedback to students. This measure, however, requires many districts to significantly update their network infrastructure. “Too few schools are ready for the digital age,” said Superintendent of Louisiana Education John White in a press release on July 12. “If we plan now, and invest our funds wisely, we can change this.”
The survey conducted by the state Department of Education, “Louisiana Technology Footprint,” found a shortfall in the number of computers available to students, high-speed Internet connections and facilities in which testing can be conducted. According to the Louisiana DOE, to meet the 2014-2015 testing guidelines, districts will also need to purchase or upgrade computers and other devices already owned by districts that don’t currently meet the minimum hardware specifications.
Solving the Online Testing Quandary
According to the report, many school sites have problems with Internet connectivity, including insufficient bandwidth or network infrastructure to support online testing. “One way to reduce the issue of insufficient bandwidth is to design the new tests in a method that would not require constant connectivity,” the report says. “Improving the hardware, or its configuration, that routes network data through a school or (district) could solve the issue of insufficient network infrastructure.
The Louisiana Department of Education recommends a minimum student to computer ratio of 7:1 for online testing; 5:1 for a minimum classroom learning environment; and a 1:1 for an optimal classroom learning environment.
In late July/August, sample test questions for ELA and math were made available to the 48 states signed on for the standards. Although states are still awaiting the final drafts of these assessments and inputting feedback, the sample questions provide some guidance as they create the new curriculum.