- Associated Press - Tuesday, January 28, 2014

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - As Michigan prepares for new online standardized tests next school year, a recent survey has found that all districts aren’t ready for digital testing.

Eighty-six percent of districts have the minimum Internet bandwidth requirements for online testing and enough devices for students, The Detroit News reported (http://bit.ly/LjjAEi ). The information was collected last month by the Michigan Department of Education.

Sixty-two percent have the recommended bandwidth specifications for the Smarter Balanced tests, which are in line to replace the paper-and-pencil Michigan Educational Assessment Program tests. The online assessment for grades 3-8 and 11 is planned for spring 2015.

Schools with less bandwidth could be limited in the number of students who can test at once. In districts that don’t have enough computers or other devices for testing, it’s expected to make it more difficult to test all students within a 12-week window.

To help districts get ready for online testing, the state awarded $50 million in grants in the 2012-13 school year to purchase devices and improve bandwidth. Another $45 million was awarded this year. State education officials say more money is needed for 2014-15.

During a joint House and Senate education committee hearing last month, an official with the Michigan Department of Education said a significant number of schools aren’t ready for online testing. Paper and pencil tests will be available in those cases, education officials said.

“Tech readiness is a significant factor in moving forward, but students are ready for online. They are online already. Paper and pencil is out of date,” Joseph Martineau of the Department of Education told lawmakers Jan. 15 in a report on online assessment options.

In the Detroit suburb of Grosse Pointe, for example, officials said bandwidth is inadequate across the district and students are hampered by aging technology.

To bolster bandwidth, some districts are asking voters for money. Grosse Pointe Public Schools has a $50 million bond on the Feb. 25 ballot. The money would let the district build its a fiber optic network, purchase equipment, renovate infrastructure and improve security.

The state has been participating in the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium, which is developing tests intended to align with new uniform national education standards known as Common Core. Last year, the plans took heat in the Republican-led Legislature, which allowed spending on the Common Core standards to resume but balked at funding the companion Smarter Balanced tests.

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Information from: The Detroit News, http://detnews.com/