As Brighton Schools and others throughout the state prepare for major changes to the way students are assessed on statewide exams, one of the issues officials are considering is how they will pay for the necessary technology needed to administer the online tests.
State Rep. Bill Rogers, R-Brighton, is hoping to help. He wants to help districts pay for the technology by offering state-sponsored technology grants.
The sticking point, though, is that the money - $75 million - that he's targeting is already budgeted in Gov. Rick Snyder's proposal for an incentive program that would reward districts based on how well students score on the Michigan Educational Assessment Program (MEAP).
Rogers said that plan makes little sense because of two reasons.
The first reason is because the MEAP does not measure individual student growth, but proficiency overall and the second being that an online-based computer adaptive test called Smarter Balanced will be replacing the MEAP and Michigan Merit Exam (MME) in common core subjects in the 2014-2015 school year.
The Michigan Department of Education said all assessments will be online by the 2014-2015 school year, although districts will have the option of paper and pencil versions up until 2017-2018.
Smarter Balanced has released a Technology Readiness Tool for districts to determine if they are technologically capable of administering online assessments. Districts will be responsible for making the necessary technology upgrade purchases.
"We were looking at it as being proactive instead of reactive," Rogers said. "We know it's coming. We know there's a lot of areas around the state that aren't necessary prepared for all of the hardware or software changes needed to accommodate this. We're going to give them an opportunity to get the money so they will be prepared when this test comes into play."
Rogers said the next step is to sit down with members of the Senate and the governor's office, go over big differences in the budgets and convince them that providing technology grants to ready school districts for the future is the way to go.