It’s FCAT week around Florida and schools still are scrambling with logistics. Allison Ross of the Palm Beach Post has more:
Ridge High School got a special delivery this month: nearly 400 new laptop computers.
But that still may not be enough.
Because the tens of thousands of computers at Palm Beach County schools are used more and more for testing, teachers and students can’t rely on them for lessons, research and other educational purposes.
“This is a major inconvenience to student learning,” Superintendent Wayne Gent told board members during a workshop on the budget earlier this school year, saying computers should be there for academics, not just testing.
School districts across Florida are scrambling to upgrade and add technology ahead of a big shift in state-required testing in the 2014-2015 school year that will move even more exams online.
In Palm Beach County, that means adding 25,000 computers — a jump of more than 30 percent — and bandwidth and wireless upgrades at its schools to prepare.
Still, “in the schools, instruction is suffering because computers are so tied up with assessments, and we have so many assessments that classroom teachers can’t get their kids on the computers for instruction,” said Gary Weidenhamer, the district’s director of educational technology.
Weidenhamer ticked off several state-mandated technology changes happening in schools right now. Most notable are new tests — all computer-based — that will replace the FCAT. Then there is the large percentage of students expected to need online retakes of those tests after failing the first time.
The state board probed FLDOE officials deeply late last year about how much the state would need to deal with these new mandates. A working figure was $400 million, but Tony Bennett may not be the right person to ask. He’s under fire for purchasing a $1.7 million CISCO system from his former chief of staff that is being found to be useless. With BOE chair Gary Chartrand pushing for more state procurement, it looks like Floridians can expect more crony capitalism that may prove to be useless.