Rural schools will get Wi-Fi: Should be ready by launch of new tests
Small rural schools like Princeton in Colusa County and Lake, Plaza and Capay in Glenn County should have high-speed wireless Internet by the launch of the Smarter Balanced field tests across every school district in the state starting next month.
Glenn County Office of Education officials said the $420,000 tower project has been completed.
All that is left is some paperwork, hooking up the Pacific Gas & Electric Co. meter and flipping the switch, according to Roberto Herniman, technology director with the Glenn County Office of Education.
For students in the mountainous Stony Creek Joint Union School District, the Office of Education plans to access the former AT&T tower west of Willows.
Herniman hopes to have those students equipped by April.
The two largest school districts, Willows and Orland Unified, already have high-speed Internet capabilities.
"Everybody will be online," Herniman said.
Internet access has been a major concern for rural schools since the new testing system was approved, officials said.
The reality of the computer-based assessments in California took another big step on Friday, when State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson announced that field testing will begin on Mach 18 and run through June 6.
By the end, more than three million students in school districts, county offices of education and charter schools will have had a chance to try the new system, Torlakson said in a statement.
"It's an exciting time for our students and our schools as California prepares to usher in assessments that reflect more of the real world than a bubble test ever could," Torlakson said. "From individual classrooms to school district offices and certainly at the state level, the preparations that have gone into this have been immense, and I'm looking forward to incorporating what we learn from this year's field test into next year's inaugural assessments."
Last year's Assembly Bill 484 ended most of the California Standards Tests and other assessments that had comprised the state's Standardized Testing and Reporting Program for the past 15 years.
The Smarter Balanced assessments are aligned with the Common Core State Standards in English-language arts and mathematics, which California adopted in 2010.
The new assessments will be computer-based, allowing for a much broader range of test questions than the multiple-choice exams given under STAR.
They will emphasize critical thinking, reasoning, and problem-solving-modeling, the kind of teaching and learning needed to prepare all students for the demands of college and the modern workplace, school officials said.
No student, school or district scores will be produced from this year's field test because its purpose is to "test the test," in order to determine how well the test questions and technology work, Torlakson said.