Aromas school gains network connections grant

A group of second, fourth and fifth graders perform "Yankee Doodle Dandy" in 2013 during the Veterans Day Assembly at Aromas School.

Students at Aromas School—where the Internet connection is “significantly below adequate” now—will be able to take their standardized tests online this year thanks to a new state grant, said Superintendent Ruben Zepeda.
“I was absolutely ecstatic,” said Zepeda. “The network connections at Aromas have been a major pain point for students and staff. It was the Achilles heel of our network system.”
The school is one of 227 in the state that will receive a share of nearly $27 million in set-aside funds to enhance network connectivity so schools can successfully administer California’s new online tests. The new funds will also make streaming video and online web programs possible additions to classroom lesson plans.
The Aromas-San Juan Unified School District is the only one in San Benito County that received this grant, Zepeda said.
This school year marks the second year of the Common Core State Standards testing—called Smarter Balanced Assessments—and the first year that assessment results count.
California public schools administered field tests last year to determine whether they would be ready to run the new computer-based assessment. The vast majority of the schools were successful but about 300 sites lacked online capacity or were able to run the tests only if they shut down all other online activities, according to a press release from the California Department of Education.
At Aromas, only a limited number of students could take the test at any given time.
“What ends up happening is students will start to test and, if too many students are testing, it will kick everyone out,” said Zepeda, who noted the students would have to start over on their exams.
The grant will handle updating infrastructure and monthly Internet costs through June 2016, said the superintendent. The district will assume monthly Internet costs starting July 1, 2016, he said.

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