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Education news and notes from Tampa Bay and Florida

State starts testing school districts' online testing capacity

The Florida Department of Education is wasting no time in trying to determine whether the state's school districts can handle the load of increased online testing that the Common Core-affiliated PARCC promises to bring.

The department has started bandwidth testing for three school districts even before Gov. Rick Scott has signed the bill that would require all districts to have proven capacity before the PARCC testing can begin. And what better place to start than in the home counties of the three lawmakers who made the load testing a priority?

The effort is taking place in Okaloosa, Pasco and Leon, the bases for Senate president Don Gaetz, education committee chairman John Legg and vice chairman Bill Montford, respectively. After this "speed testing" round, which will be used to provide data to the Florida Board of Education, the department will decide how best to proceed with the other districts.

According to the DOE, the tests are conducted in short, controlled intervals throughout the day, and throughout the schools, to ensure it accounts for differing levels of Internet usage. It looks at upload and download speed for the schools' Internet connection, while also looking at the browser types and operating systems in use.

The state's existing readiness gauge has shown that most districts are not yet prepared for the PARCC testing, which was scheduled to debut in 2014-15. Officials continue to debate whether Florida can meet this deadline without significant improvements to schools' technology infrastructure, hardware and software. There's a near constant refrain from the school level that their tests cannot be used for instructional purposes already once testing season begins, and online testing glitches such as lost connections continue to pop up from time to time.

What do you think it will take to get Florida schools to the next level of computerized state testing?

[Last modified: Monday, May 13, 2013 6:30am]


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