L.A. Unified is switching from state exams taken with papers and pencils to digital assessments this spring, and officials are still not sure how they will pull it off.
Part of the problem is getting online. Of the 402 schools scheduled for IT work, only about 15 percent will have upgrades "substantially completed" by the time testing begins, according to district documents. And 83 IT projects are scheduled to be underway during the testing window.
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The district is now surveying schools to find out if their computers can connect to the secure testing site, hosted by test developer Smarter Balance.
The survey also asks schools to count computers – desktops, laptops and other tablets – that will be brought into the testing fleet, along side the 30,000 new iPads purchased so far.
Superintendent John Deasy is also requesting 67,500 more iPads and 18,500 new laptops. They will have to be shared amongst the 423,852 students scheduled to take the exams in April. The estimate of need does not include computers already on the campuses. Administrators said that information is still being gathered.
The district has flagged 694 campuses as needing network upgrades – all but 63 of the district's schools. Networks at each school may not be able to handle hundreds of students testing at the same time.
"In a system as large as this one, certainly 100 percent of computers will not connect to the Internet 100 percent of the time," said Scott Folsom, a member of a committee that oversees the bonds used to buy iPads and upgrade IT.
What Folsom does not want is a new batch of iPads collecting dust during testing time because of spotty Internet access.
It's unclear if the survey results will be made available before the board votes on whether to purchase more iPads January 7th. The district could not provide the date the results will be released.