In an effort to increase computer facility and literacy within Louisiana, the state has introduced a new rule that mandates at least one computer for every seven students. According to State Superintendent of Education John White, 86% of public school students in the states are already attending schools that meet minimum computer requirements, writes Will Sentell of The Advocate.
Under the rules, all of the state's 70 school districts are supposed to reach seven to one ratios for online access, which means at least one computer or similar device for every seven students. State officials said that currently 38 school districts meet the new guidelines, up from just five a year ago.
The state's schools are keen on making improvements for the 2014-15 school year. The new minimum computer requirements are designed for students to take online tests as part of Common Core.
"I am thrilled today to say that our districts are really responding to that challenge," White told reporters. "They are making investments and working very hard, as evidenced by today's results."
The minimum computer requirements issue sparked controversy with the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education. Ascension Parish Superintendent Patrice Pujol, who is also serving as president of the Louisiana Association of School Superintendents, said that "there are widespread concerns among school leaders about meeting the deadline, especially in rural parishes."
Many of the school systems that have not met minimum computer requirements are in less populated areas. But White said that just because a school system has a modest population does not mean it cannot comply with the new rules. He noted that the St. Helena Parish school system, one of the poorest in the state, is also one of eight districts with three to one ratios for computer access. The East Baton Rouge, Ascension and Iberville districts made the same list. The St. James Parish school system has achieved a one to one ratio for its students.
The West Feliciana, Central and St. Charles school districts meet five to one ratios and the St. Tammany, Tangipahoa and Assumption parishes school districts meet the seven to one requirement.
Zachary School District Superintendent Scott Devillier, who was part of a group that met with White, said superintendents have concerns about the requirements. "It is just how to get there financially," he said of superintendent worries. Devillier said he thinks his school system has about an eight to one ratio now and will be in compliance.
According to the state Department of Education officials, the districts were offered support through technology consulting services and advice on how federal and state funds can be used for the upgrades.
White said the push for technology improvements transcends any single day of testing. "I don't think that you can say it is about tests alone," White said. "That is part of it, but the idea that we are debating if technology is a good investment is wrong."