St. Charles Herald-Guide

Schools say state manipulating tech reports

Kyle Barnett - September 20, 2013

St. Charles Parish Public Schools administrators are saying that a technology report released by the state Department of Education is filled with inaccuracies.

The report released by the Louisiana Department of Education (LDOE) assessed each school district’s ability to institute online testing before the elimination of iLEAP and LEAP assessment tests and the introduction of Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) tests.

In the past, schools around the state only reported computers that could be used for testing. The state changed those guidelines earlier this year and asked schools to report almost every computer they have in the schools. That includes computers that are used by teachers for classroom instruction.

“The reason we only reported labs in the beginning is because those are really the only ones in the testing environments that we want our kids to be able to test in,” Superintendent Felicia Gomez-Walker said.  “And then (LDOE) changed the definition of what we need to report so we included the core classroom computers and all of the other devices.”

Stephanie Steib, director of Information Technology Services, said in actuality the student to computer ratio has not improved because computers that students don’t even use were added to each school’s tally.

“Schools have vastly reduced their student to computer ratios. So how did that happen? In 2012 many school districts like St. Charles Parish didn’t report non-testing machines. This year, after we got the email, we all reported all of our machines. So imagine the vast increase in the state’s readiness,” she said.

District 5 School Board member John Smith said LDOE is trying to make technology throughout the state look better than it really is.

“Certain things they are forcing us to do is manipulating the data,” he said.

Under the latest state count, St. Charles Parish is considered to be ready for the PARCC exams with a 5:1 student to testing device ratio, which is higher than the state required minimum of 7:1.

However, Steib said in reality the school needs to introduce more computers designated for test taking in order for the school to be fully ready.

The school system is currently planning a pilot program that would include a mobile lab that could be moved from school to school and includes numerous laptop computers children could use for test taking.

“Depending on the results of this pilot we are planning in the fall, we are going to add seven additional mobile labs in the spring and summer of 2014. That will get us to the number of devices we need to truly test all of the kids in St. Charles Parish,” Steib said.