When California decided it was out with old standards and in with the new, Common Core-aligned assessments, it was only the start of a long and arduous transition for local school districts in adopting to the new computer-based “Smarter Balanced” tests.
That was seven months ago.
Now, an internal LAUSD memo released to LA School Report, shows that only 38 percent of LA Unified schools are currently capable of administering the new tests, which will be field-tested by 3rd through 8th and 11th graders beginning April 7.
The district sent the Smarter Balanced Readiness Survey to nearly 800 schools last month, posing three simple questions to school administrators that were to be answered in part by administering a practice test to one class at each school site.
Does the school have wired computers available for testing in a lab setting?
Were you able to install the secure browser on all the computers that will be used for testing?
Did the students get to the first question?
According to the results, 31 percent of schools replied that they did not have any wired computers available for testing, but even schools answering yes on all three questions expressed major concerns about their testing infrastructure. Many said they simply didn’t have enough hardware to administer the tests to all their students in the given testing window, and many others reported software that was outdated and incompatible with the Smarter Balance browser.
One school administrator worried that the testing would prove disruptive to the school’s regular computer program: “We have one lab (40 computers). The lab is used for computer classes all day. In order to test our 500 11th graders for [the] 3.5 hours that SBAC estimates the field tests take, we would have to remove the [computer] teacher and her classes for at least 12 days, not including make-up testing. That’s a lot of lost instructional time.”
Another voiced concern about the software: “Some computers would not load the assessment (it kept spooling.)”
And still another worried about the possibility of cheating: “The computers are in close proximity to each other so the students could see each other’s answers.”
In the memo, Executive Director of LAUSD Data and Accountability, Cynthia Lim, assures Superintendent John Deasy that her office is following up with schools to help address the technology challenges clearly indicated in the survey, and says she’ll work with schools deemed ready by the survey to “ensure full readiness.”
The Smarter Balanced tests aren’t set to officially begin until the 2014-15 school year.