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TUSD upgrades technology to handle upcoming testing

Students in classrooms across the Turlock Unified School District may be trying their hand at new Google Chromebooks, a personal computer that runs mostly on internet connection, in upcoming months as the District prepares for the upcoming field test by the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium, commonly known as SBAC.

SBAC is a state-led consortium that aims to develop assessments that accurately measure student growth towards college and career readiness. SBAC received funding from the U.S. Department of Education in 2010 to develop an assessment system that aligns with the new Common Core State Standards by the 2014-15 school year. The Smarter Balanced Assessment System will be administered to third through eighth graders as well as eleventh graders to assess their knowledge in English language arts and mathematics.

 On April 7 TUSD is scheduled to commence a field test of the Smarter Balanced Assessment System which will not measure students’ scores but the quality of the test itself. Over three million students across 22 states will take the field test which will help to ensure that assessments are fair for students while also providing teachers the opportunities to practice test procedures.

“It’s a test of the test,” said Jason Brem, director of Technology and Data Systems.

For the field test, the quality and reliability of technology is more important than content of the test, on which students will not be graded, and to prepare TUSD has purchased three carts of 36 Chromebooks that amount to over $25,000. The Chromebooks will be used as a supplement for the SBAC testing throughout the District and utilized at school sites that have a higher student population or insufficient technology.   After the SBAC testing the Chromebooks will likely be used for various pilot projects throughout the District to test technology more efficiently.

“The District’s long term goal is to increase technological access for all students and teachers,” said Brem.

Technology will continue to be on the Board’s radar as it is playing an increasingly important role in public education since the new Common Core curriculum aims to prepare students for the real world by integrating technology and academics. However, superintendent Sonny DaMarto cautioned that smarter spending does not equal more spending at the Board meeting Tuesday night.

 “In some ways the SBAC has forced us to move a little quicker and there is talk about just pulling the trigger and going for better technology. But we’ve got to remember, with limited bullets you have to aim very carefully and get near your target before you spend the money,” said DaMarto.