New Canaan public schools have made increasing numbers of computers, including mobile devices, available to students on a per-student basis—in some cases increasing availability by half as again as much over a six year period, according to data from the Connecticut Department of Education.
The latest information available from the state (see searchable database above), in the 2010-11 school year, says that one device was available for one out of 2.5 elementary school students, 3.2 middle/junior high school students and 2.6 high school—“up” from 3.9, 3.9 and 3.8 respectively six years earlier. (A lower figure indicates greater availability on a per-student basis—for example, a 2.5 means a device was available to students to a higher degree than a 3.9.)
In part, the figures mark a shift several years ago from desktop computers to more flexible laptop and netbook devices, according to Rob Miller, the district’s director of information and communication technologies.
“We have been able to deploy two netbooks per [desktop] computer, so we’ve increased the number of machines in elementary school classrooms with a slightly smaller and less expensive model from what we’ve had in the past,” Miller said.
The comments come as technology plays an increasingly important role in Connecticut schools. Up-to-date computer system infrastructures will become be an absolute essential for the state's school districts beginning in 2014-2015, when state-wide testing of the Common Core State Curriculum is fully implemented.
While CMT and CAPT tests worked with old-fashioned pencil and paper, the 2014-2015 common core tests will use computer adaptive testing almost exclusively to more accurately assess how well students understand the material, according to the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium website. As students take the tests, the exams will adjust the difficulty level depending on how well students are answering the questions.
“The State Department of Education is currently undertaking a modeling exercise to analyze districts’ technology capacity and needs related to the Smarter Balanced assessments, including what the ratio of students to computers should be," said Kelly Donnelly, director of communications and community partnerships.
According to the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium, of which Connecticut is a governing state, school districts with a student to computer ratio between 8:1 and 11:1 should be able to complete the common core assessments within a three to four week testing window.
Take a look at the consortium's full technology report to view the minimum requirements for bandwidth, operating systems and more.
The curriculum changes affect math and language arts for K-12 students.
New Canaan’s figures easily surpass an 8:1 ratio. Miller said that the district looks solely at what is best for its students, rather than viewing state testing as driving the need for increased technology.
The state’s figures reflect all instructional devices in a school, Miller said. For that reason, the figures are deceiving in terms of what the district sets aside for testing specifically. It’s a priority for the district—say, during a three- to four-week testing window—to devote machines to testing; however, the overarching priority is to avoid impacting classroom instruction, Miller said.
“They [state officials] are looking at all computers in classrooms and mobile computer labs, in the library, at the ratios in the building,” he said. “The numbers of devices that are used for testing purposes, those can vary drastically.”
Connecticut adopted the common core standards in the summer of 2010.
The standards, developed by the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers, both state-led as opposed to federally-led groups, have been adopted in every state except for Minnesota, Nebraska, Virginia, Texas and Alaska.
More information on the common core standards is available on the Common Core Standards Initiative website.