Friday, September 26, 2014

Chromebooks meet testing demands

It was a busy summer and early school year for the New Richmond Exempted Village School District’s technology department which has brought 600 Chromebook laptops online just in time to meet the demands of Ohio Department of Education’s mandated online assessments beginning with the 2014-2015 school year.

During the week of Sept. 22, NREVSD students began the first round of what will be an estimated 16,000 online assessments during the 2014-2015 school year beginning with the Pro Core assessments for students in grades 4 through 9 and the Chromebooks running Google’s browser based operating system in proving to be the tool to meet the demand.

Locust Corner students using Chromebooks,
and traditional study methods in the school's
media center.
The New Richmond Board of Education was able to add four 30-unit Chromebook carts per building for the cost of upgrading one computer lab on the district’s scheduled 5-7-year  upgrade cycle.

“We are able to purchased four Chromebooks ($199 base price plus $40 for a 3-year extended warranty) for one standalone PC,” said NREVSD technology director Matt Prichard. “These devices can be utilized directly in the classroom in order to maximize valuable instructional time Students have with teachers compared to students relocating to a computer lab during classroom time.”

The Chromebook is a fully functioning laptop including a keyboard which is a necessity for essay questions. The lightweight Acer C720 11-inch Chromebook selected by the district offers up to 8.5 hour battery life versus 2-4 hours with traditional laptop computers.  The Chromebook starts within 7 seconds and updates automatically and has virus protection built into the operating system.

NREVSD technology director Matt Prichard trains Monroe Elementary
teachers on the use of Chromebooks which have been added for use in
online assessments and classroom applications.
The Chromebooks compliment the district’s previous purchase of Apple IPads (one 24-unit cart per grade level).

“IPads are a great tool for running educational apps but students need a keyboard for testing,” said Prichard. “Our staff and students will continue to utilize iPads in the classrooms for daily instruction.”

Chromebooks are a hit in the classrooms especially the high school where they will replace short-battery laptops in blended learning classes like Math XL and in essay driven classes.

“My English classes are currently typing essays on the Chromebooks using Google Docs,” said high school English teacher Michelle Senter. “My students can easily access their written work anywhere wireless is available while typing in Google Docs, and the Chromebooks are fantastic for this.”

The Chromebooks will be used for approximately 4000 online Pro Core assessments in September and again in January to help teachers prepare their students for the state mandated online proficiency tests in the Spring and at the end of school year.

Approximately 4050 Performance Based assessments administered in February and March in the following areas to be followed by the same number End of Year (PARCC) assessments administered in April and May:

Grade 3 – Reading and Math
Grade 4 – Reading, Math, Social Studies
Grade 5 – Reading, Math, Science
Grade 6 – Reading, Math, Social Studies
Grade 7 – Reading, Math
Grade 8 – Reading, Math, Science
Grade 9 – ELA and Integrated Math

“This does not take into account Alternate Assessment of Students with Disabilities or other required assessments (NAEP, grade 8),” noted John Frye, district director of pupil and staff services.

Chromebooks, which have a life expectancy of 3-5 years, have been approved by the state for conducting the online PARCC assessments (Partnership for Assessment of Readiness of College and Careers) which kicked in this school year.

The computer-based K–12 PARCC assessments are aligned with the new Common Core State Standards designed to give teachers, schools, students and their parents better information to determine if their students are on track in their learning cycle and for success after high school.

Besides assessments in mathematics, reading, science and social studies learning standards and domains in grades 2 through 11, high school students beginning with this year’s freshman class face specific end-of-course assessments for Integrated Math I, II, and III, Algebra I and II, Geometry, Physical Science, Biology, Chemistry, Modern World History, American History, and
American Government.

“Chromebooks give our staff and students more flexibility and reliability with the upcoming online-based Assessments at a fraction of the cost of a traditional desktop computer,” added Prichard. “You do not want to be tied to one device.”