September 24, 2012
California Begins Gathering Data on School Technology
SACRAMENTO—Forty-two percent of California schools participated in the first of six surveys scheduled in a nationwide effort to gauge readiness for new on-line assessments, prompting State Schools Superintendent Tom Torlakson to urge more schools to take part in the future.
"We know our schools already face enormous day-to-day challenges—but we also need to understand what issues they face as we move to online testing over the next few years," Torlakson said. "We know this effort will take time, energy and resources— all of which are in short supply. That's why we need the broadest participation possible in this survey, so that we provide as much assistance as possible to schools as they make the transition to 21st-century testing."
The survey, known as the Technology Readiness Tool, asked schools administrators about their type of computers, computer operating systems, memory size, monitor display size, screen resolution, and Internet bandwidth. The survey also asked them to gauge concerns about the number of test administrators, technical understanding to support online testing, training, and support staff.
The relatively small response rate suggests that the state should use the findings as baseline rather than drawing conclusions about the results. In addition, it should be noted that the data included in the survey are unaudited and submitted voluntarily, and are subject to frequent change as schools change their use of technology frequently.
Among California schools that responded to the first nationwide survey:
- Technology devices: About 600,000 devices were reported.
- Operating systems: 74.7 percent of the devices used a Windows operating system, while 23.7 percent used Mac.
- Memory capacity: 75.5 percent had 1 gigabyte or greater, 21.3 percent had less than 1 gigabyte, and 3.2 percent left this field blank.
- Internet browser: 60.5 percent use Internet Explorer, 15 percent use Safari, 15.2 percent use another Internet browser, and 9.3 percent did not respond.
- Wired or wireless connection to the Internet: 48.1 percent use wireless as their primary means, 29.6 percent do not, and 22.3 percent did not respond.
- Device types: 54.3 percent were desktops, 15.4 percent laptops, 4.5 percent notebooks, 2.8 percent tablets, 2.9 percent thin clients, 0.7 percent other, and 19.4 percent did not respond.
Regarding the number of administrators, technical understanding and support issues, those responding to the survey expressed the greatest level of concern for having a sufficient number of technology support staff, having test administrators with sufficient technical understanding to support online testing and with providing all appropriate training for test administrators.
"While it's obviously too early to draw any firm conclusions, these initial findings suggest that training and technical support will be important areas to address—perhaps just as important as providing schools the computers and the bandwidth to carry out online testing itself," Torlakson said.
Torlakson said the work of his Education Technology Task Force, as well as continuing to advocate for additional state and federal resources for education technology, would help address the needs identified by the survey.
California is part of the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium of 25 states that are working to create a common assessment system nationwide for mathematics and English-language arts. The assessments would be aligned with the Common Core State Standards.
As part of the adoption of Common Core and involvement in Smarter Balanced, California is moving toward administering standardized tests to students on computers by 2014-15, instead of on paper. Smarter Balanced is helping its member states assess the currently available technology at schools by partnering with other education consortia and technology groups that together developed the Technology Readiness Tool.