Roughly two-thirds of Massachusetts’ schools lack the technical capacity to conduct standardized tests online and would need a significant financial investment in order to get there, according to a survey from the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.
The survey asked nearly 1,700 schools across the state if they had the technological might to handle the testing and found that many lack enough computers, broadband capacity or other equipment needed to test a large number of students online simultaneously.
Local school officials could not put a price tag on the upgrades needed, but said the investments “could be significant” and are asking the state for financial assistance, although even that might not be enough.
“Superintendents are saying, ‘There’s no way we can ramp up to that extent in the next several years,’” said Thomas Scott, executive director of the Massachusetts Association of School Superintendents, in an interview with The Boston Globe.
In the survey, 1,057 schools said they require more computing devices, while 226 schools said they need external network upgrades. The Massachusetts state legislature is currently considering a $38 million bond bill — the only education technology measure currently on the docket — that would help with network upgrades.
The state is currently at the recommended 3-to-1 student-to-computer ratio, but that number is shortsighted, as some schools are above 6 to 1, according to the most recent state data.
The student-computer ratio, for instance, obscures the fact that many devices are antiquated and require replacement, such as computers relying on the Microsoft XP operating system, which is being phased out, or on Macintoshes that lack an Intel-based processor.
Massachusetts has not yet adopted online testing, but there is belief it will as soon as Mitchell Chester, the state commissioner of elementary and secondary education, is heading up a consortium of states developing a new test.