Most La. public schools meet minimum computer standard

Three of four students attend public schools that meet the state’s minimum technology standard, which is one computer for every seven students, state Superintendent of Education John White said Wednesday.

However, 22 school districts are still trying to reach Louisiana’s goal, including the Central, Lafayette, Orleans, Livingston, West Baton Rouge and Jefferson school systems.

Schools and districts still wrestling with the issue represent a mixture of elementary and high schools, White said.

“Technology became an important part of our daily lives years ago so it is not a question of a deadline,” he said.

White’s comments were an update on recent computer gains and an elaboration on a briefing he gave to the House and Senate education committees on Jan. 15.

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.

“This is about leadership, not about being rural or urban, large or small,” White said.

Another motivation is the knowledge that more students will be taking online tests because of the national academic standards called Common Core.

High school students have taken online exams for years.

White said last month that the state is a long way from providing all students with individualized computers.

He said the 7-1 ratio is manageable because online tests are staggered and the minimum standard “allows students to have intermittent access through the day.”

Some superintendents have said they are having problems finding money for the computers.

State officials say they are aiding districts through partnerships with technology vendors to trim costs and through assistance to the federal government’s E-Rate program.

It provides discounts on network bandwidth, which is the infrastructure needed for tests and teaching.

White said 58 school districts have basic Internet capacity and 66 have enough network infrastructure to handle student tests.

Both totals are up from 36 in 2012.

Districts in Louisiana have collected $36.5 million in E-Rate reimbursements.

The state Department of Education has released technology updates every six months for the past two years.

This one includes district snapshots and school-by-school analysis.

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.

Officials also said that:

906 of 1,180 schools meet the 7-1 ratio of students to computers.

35 of the 47 districts that meet the state minimum exceed the 7-1 ratio, up from nine a year ago.

Districts have upgraded or purchased about 129,000 desktops, laptops and tablets since July 2011.