Grants help schools prepare for new assessments


Area school systems will each receive technology grants from the state worth more than $200,000. The money will be used to assist the municipalities in making the transition to Common Core State Standards and preparing for the Smarter Balanced assessment — a computer adaptive test that will replace the Connecticut Mastery Test and Connecticut Academic Performance Test during the 2014-15 school year.

The grants are part of Connecticut’s plan to provide more than $24 million to school systems across the state to bring more computers into classrooms and increase Internet bandwidth. Meriden’s grant is $219,434; Wallingford’s is $221,278; Southington’s is $237,923 and Cheshire’s is $202,575.

“Technology enhancements are necessary to enable students to benefit from the next generation of computerized adaptive assessments,” state Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor said in a statement. “But, even more importantly, these tech improvements provide essential tools for ever more engaging teaching and learning in today’s classrooms.”

Wallingford School Superintendent Salvatore Menzo said the state grant will be used to continue expanding the school system’s Google Chromebook program. Wallingford is in the process of providing more wireless access points in the grades 3-5 schools, which will better prepare the school system for the Smarter Balanced assessment. Administrators also purchased 660 Chromebooks — a small affordable laptop — to be used at Moran Middle School and Sheehan and Lyman Hall high schools.

“With the new money, we hope to expand the purchase of the Chromebooks,” Menzo said. “The goal is to use the money to get the first two items and move forward from there — to potentially purchase more Chromebooks.”

In Cheshire, School Superintendent Greg Florio said the focus was on making sure computer labs in the schools weren’t going to be “tied up” when the Smarter Balanced assessment would be administered in the spring.

Cheshire educators are hoping to use the grant to purchase a number of Chromebooks for students to use in classrooms, rather than having them rely on using labs to complete school work.

“With the labs, it’ll be used to administer the test and the kids will have the devices to use in the classrooms,” Florio explained. “We can expand the capabilities to use technology in instruction.”

The Southington school system is in the middle of a three-year technology plan the Board of Education approved last year, according to School Superintendent Joseph V. Erardi Jr. With the plan, an emphasis was placed on wiring all the schools and updating software, he said.

Erardi said the grant would “allow us to immediately enhance the WiFi connection in the schools” and to move forward with the school system’s “computers on wheels” initiative. Erardi described the “computers on wheels” as mobile computer labs, and he hopes to be able to purchase multiple labs for the schools to use.

Meriden schools plan to use the grants to add a 30-seat computer lab at six elementary schools, according to Superintendent Mark D. Benigni. John Barry and Casimir Pulaski elementary schools will not receive the new computer labs, Benigni said, because each already contains a large computer room.

In addition, both Lincoln and Washington middle schools will receive 60 computers to increase capacity, Benigni said.

“We wrote the grant specifically directly to support the new testing methods and to transition from CMT and CAPT to Smarter Balanced,” he said.

As each area superintendent plans to use the grants to invest in new technology to make sure their respective schools are ready for administration of Smarter Balanced, they all also said the schools’ infrastructure is already capable of handling the traffic.

evo@record-journal.com (203) 317-2235 Twitter: @EricVoRJ



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