Calcasieu’s public schools have been making technology upgrades to keep up with new state requirements.
Many of the upgrades have been in preparation for the 2014-15 school year, when all state tests will be taken online. In the past few years many local schools have gotten a jump-start by incorporating iPads for lessons and interactive Promethean Boards for teaching.
“We’re one of the technological leaders in the state at this point,” District 7 board member Mack Dellafosse said. “We’ve been upgrading schools each year with more devices, and we’ve gotten more grants.”
According to the state Department of Education, 54 of 58 schools in Calcasieu Parish meet the 7:1 student-to-computer ratio set in the Louisiana Believes: Louisiana’s Technology Footprint standard. This new tool was formed to track and evaluate digital readiness in schools while also providing ways for educational facilities to provide the necessary devices and support for students. Each school’s technological footprint is provided in the LEA Technology Readiness Assessments for 2014-15.
Pat Deaville, director of high school curriculum, said among the technological changes made is the increase of computer labs and connectivity for the online end-of-course tests. The graduating class of 2014 will be the first group of students whose graduation requirement is to pass the EOC and will constitute 20 percent of their grade.
Deaville said the school system has been working on connectivity time to reduce the number of EOC testing cycles and to ensure students do not encounter time-outs during the test. According to the 2014-15 assessment for Calcasieu Parish, the district will need a minimum of three gigabytes per second of Internet bandwidth for the online tests to keep programs from running slow or timing-out. It shows that Calcasieu Parish has a shared bandwidth of 155 megabytes per second among the area schools.
“We’ve been doing a lot of reporting back to the state, and I know that we’ve made a very significant gain in increasing our access to technology for all students,” Deaville said. “We are really working hard to meet these standards, but it’s going to be a very challenging thing.”
The school system’s chief technology officer, Sheryl Abshire, said the district will double its bandwidth around July and has been working toward updating its system to keep up with new requirements. Even though it is no longer required to supply Windows 7 for students — schools can now use the older Windows XP program — Abshire said adding other technological advancements can be financially challenging. She said that because the state Department of Education does not provide technology funding for schools, the school system has had to use local money and grants for digital additions.
“This is certainly not a challenge that the school system will step back from,” she said. “We will make sure we have the equipment for students ... so that there are no barriers or roadblocks because we want them to perform well on these tests.”