Calcasieu Parish schools make gains in technology

By By Nichole Osinski / American Press

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.”