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LA Unified preparing a ‘dress rehearsal’ for computer testing

Vanessa Romo | February 17, 2015

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students use ipadsLA Unified will be conducting a district-wide dress rehearsal on Thursday for the upcoming Smarter Balance exam, California’s new standardized test assessing students on Common Core State Standards.

The aim is to identify and resolve any glitches in the technological infrastructure before the tests are given, Lydia Ramos, a district spokesperson told LA School Report.

The only open question is whether the results of the official tests will be used for high stakes accountability purposes, especially federal funding. Superintendent Ramon Cortines is among many high ranking officials around the state calling for a delay in using this year’s test scores to calculate future academic growth.

The State Board of Education is expected to make a final recommendation at its next meeting in mid-March.

In either case, LA Unified is using the rehearsal tests to make sure it’s ready.

“This way we’ll know if there are any connectivity issues or problems accessing the test before kids actually have to take it,” Ramos said.

The exam must be taken on a computer, which means a majority of LA Unified students will be taking it on an iPad. However, some older students will have access to laptops.

Every elementary, middle and high school throughout the district will administer the exam to at least one class of students in grades 3-8 and grade 11, Ramos said.

Additionally, schools will be asked to complete a survey Feb 20 to report any issues that arise.

“We’re simply trying to get ready for this new world of computerized testing,” said Ramos.

The district conducted a similar trial run last year and found many schools experienced technical difficulties; Students were unable to log onto the testing site, connections to the internet were spotty, and many students were booted out of the system, unable to complete the test.

At the time, Cynthia Lim, executive director of the department that oversees the deployment of devices for the Smarter Balanced test and the infrastructure required to administer it, contended a lot of the problems were “due to the fact they delivered the devices so close to the testing dates.”

But this year, the district failed to deliver testing devices on schedule. Several hiccups have delayed their delivery by four months. The district had initially promised an October delivery date, but even now, six schools are still waiting on their devices.

Those schools will still participate in the System Readiness test, Ramos confirmed.

“They’re going to get support from [the district’s central office] to make sure they can take the test,” she said. For now, the six schools are scheduled to receive the testing iPads next week.

On a related note, Board member Monica Ratliff informed the board last week that 399 iPads intended for testing have gone missing. She was wrong, says Bernadette Lucas, director of the district’s technology project.

“At this point we have 343 unaccounted for iPads,” she told LA School Report. “But they’re not considered lost or stolen.” It is possible, she added, that many of them are in an office or storage space in “off” mode where they cannot register to the system. “They’re not pinging because they’ve been off for a while,” she said.

Elementary and middle school students will official take  the Smarter Balance test between March 4 through June 4. The window for 11th grade students is shorter, from April 15 through June 4.

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