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LAUSD’s Smarter Balanced dry run exposes an array of problems

Vanessa Romo | March 3, 2015



smarter balancedA practice run of the Smarter Balanced test taken by a sampling of LA Unified students last month exposed an alarming number of technological weaknesses that left a third of participating schools unable to access the computerized exam, a new survey shows.

“The readiness test pointed out areas that need improvement and repair prior to the operational test this spring,” Cynthia Lim, Executive Director of the Office of Data and Accountability said in a report examining the survey’s findings.

All LA Unified schools were asked to mimic test conditions by having at least one class in grades 3 through 8 and 11 access the state-administered test on Feb. 19. The purpose of the exercise was to put maximum stress on the district’s technology infrastructure to identify and resolve any glitches before the actual test is given later this month.

The future doesn’t look so bright: Many schools reported frustration over the lack of connection and an inability to access the practice test.

Of the 775 schools that responded to the survey, almost half reported difficulties in connecting with the state testing website. Other problems came with the practice test itself, such as advancing to the next page and using graphing tools within the test. The California Department of Education has since updated the secured browser that students will be using to take the actual test.

But the district’s share of tech problems also raise “readiness” concerns, the survey showed. Students reported difficulty with internet connections, overall slow speeds and problems with iPads not loading or freezing or receiving “Access Denied” errors.

Additional findings include:

  • 61,310 students took the practice test within a four-hour window, while 275,000 are expected to take the exam over a month.
  • The district’s total bandwidth was severely stressed, and schools experienced overall network slowness during this time. They were not able to log into applications, such as MiSiS, or utilize schools’ wireless networks.
  • A third of schools were unable to get through to the practice test.
  • Despite months-long delay in re-delivering iPads and laptops to schools, only 75 percent of schools’ testing devices and 80 percent of schools one-to-one devices have been updated with the latest software and applications required for the test.
  • 56 percent of schools used wireless connections while 38 percent used a combination of wired and wireless.
  • Nearly 80 percent reported that classrooms using the internet for instructional activities experienced connectivity issues during the readiness test.
  • 24 schools reported having limited bandwidth, affecting access. (See below for a full list.) The district said today it has fixed problems at 10 of the schools.

The district did not track how many students were able to complete the test.

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


Schools reporting limited bandwidth: Ann Street Elementary, Euclid Elementary, Farmdale Elementary, Hoover Elementary, Trinity Elementary, Beckford Charter for Enriched Studies, Brainard Elementary, Capistrano Elementary, Chandler Elementary, San Fernando Elementary, 18th Street Elementary, Huntington Park Elementary, Park Avenue Elementary, San Antonio Elementary, Community Magnet Charter School, Raymond Avenue Elementary, Warner Elementary, Wonderland Elementary, Griffith Joyner Elementary, City of Angeles-6th Avenue, City of Angels-Woodland Hills, City of Angels-Venice, Evergreen High School, Riley High School.

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