Whether Proviso Township High School District 209 students will be taking the test on a district-owned computer or a “bring your own” device, D209 is going to have to upgrade connectivity in its three high schools to be compliant with the new PARCC (Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers) exams next school year.
Technology infrastructure and equipment upgrades will cost the district around $2.5 million, Ed Moyer, executive director of assessment and planning told the D209 school board at their Oct. 8 meeting.
In Moyer’s presentation to the board, he said almost half of the devices owned by the district are non-compliant with the specs necessary for PARCC. He also said the district will be required to double the district’s current bandwidth in 99 classrooms in all three high schools.
Moyer said the district’s computers didn’t have enough RAM memory for the test to work properly, averaging only 512 megabytes. The recommended specs for PARCC are 1 gigabyte of RAM or greater. The district’s Internet speed is currently 5-50 kilobits per second, per student. PARCC’s recommendation is 100 kps or faster per student, he said.
Along with every tablet used by students to take the test, PARCC protocols require an external keyboard so that no screen space would be taken up by a keyboard. PARCC will release other requirements for “assistive technology for field testing” by November.
Moyer said the district would need to buy 1,560 compliant devices, update wiring and increase bandwidth. He gave the board the protocol for technology purchases. The document applies to computers, monitors, Promethean boards, as well as software and handheld devices. The checklist asks if the item is new or a replacement, how it is being paid for (grants or local funds), networking and installation requirements, accessories required, and vendor.
“Do we have that in the budget?” board member Kevin McDermott asked. District CFO Todd Drafall said the district had a $500,000 technology budget.
This sudden PARCC demand for a tech makeover of school districts is reverberating throughout the state of Illinois as cash-strapped districts have been told they must expand their bandwidth to allow assessments to be completed online by groups of students at a time.
“The state is telling us to come up with the money,” said D209 Superintendent Nettie Collins-Hart. “We don’t have a choice.”
Just acquiring technology is not the district’s goal, Moyer said. It is important that teachers are taught how to use the new machines and administer the tests.
“Professional development is the number one thing,” he told the board.
Members noted that the new technology and test benchmarks were not compatible with the ENI assessment package the district put in place for calendar year 2011-12. The district paid Evans Newton Inc. $646,475.81 in 2010 and 2011 for scantron-compatible tests that were given to students in English, Algebra, Geometry and Algebra 2 during the 2011-12 school year, according to www.openthbooks.com, a government watchdog website. ENI measures different benchmarks than the Common Core and PARCC assessments.
“ENI was good for students at the time,” said Superintendent Nettie Collins-Hart.