Louisiana state Superintendent of Education John White says that three out of four students attend public schools that meet the state’s minimum technology standard of one computer for every seven students.
Twenty-two school districts are still working on the goal, including Central, Lafayette, Orleans, Livingston, West Baton Rouge, and Jefferson. White says the schools still working on the issue represent both elementary and high schools.
The comments come as an update to a briefing he gave the House and Senate committee on recent computer gains. “Technology became an important part of our daily lives years ago so it is not a question of a deadline,” he said.
He said 47 of 69 school districts have met the state standard, which includes computers and tablets. That list includes the East Baton Rouge and St. Tammany parish school systems. The Ascension Parish school system has achieved a 3-1 ratio and the Zachary and West Feliciana school systems have achieved 5-1 ratios. The St. Helena, St. James, and Cameron school systems offer one computer per student.
One motivation is the knowledge that more students will be taking online tests due to the adoption of Common Core academic standards. White said that the state is a long way off from providing all students with individualized computers, but that the 7-1 ratio is doable because the online tests are staggered and that the minimum standard “allows students to have intermittent access through the day”.
Superintendents in some districts say they are having a hard time finding money for computers. State officials are working to help districts through partnerships with technology vendors that trim costs and through a government assistance program called E-Rate. This program provides discounts on network bandwidth, which is critical to the infrastructure needed for teaching and testing.
Will Sentell of The Advocate reports that according to White, 58 school districts have basic internet capacity and 66 have enough network infrastructure to handle the tests – numbers that are up from 36 in 2012. School districts in Louisiana have received $36.5 million in funding from E-Rate.
The state Department of Education releases technology updates every six months, and the report included district snapshots and school-by-school analysis. It found that 906 of 1,180- schools met the 7-1 ratio of students to computers, and 35 of 47 that meet the state minimum exceed the ratio. Since 2011, districts have upgraded or purchased 129,000 desktops, laptops, and tablets.
White said the drive for improved technology represents a changed mindset from traditional textbooks and other materials, which spark about $50 million of spending per year.