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Laguna students test for upcoming state exams

Using newly purchased computers, schools are practicing for new standards.

March 10, 2014|By Bryce Alderton | By Bryce Alderton
  • Students in Jennifer Chen's fifth-grade class work on Chromebooks during class at El Morro Elementary on Tuesday.
Students in Jennifer Chen's fifth-grade class… (Don Leach, Daily…)

Fifth-grade teacher Jennifer Chen set aside some time Tuesday morning for a Google Chromebook jam session.

The only sounds inside her El Morro Elementary School classroom were "taps" from students clicking the mouse on the devices, which resemble laptops but do not have internal memory, relying solely on cloud servers.

Children plugged away at math questions in preparation for the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium field tests coming this spring. The consortium is a group of top educators, some from universities, who designed the tests as California and more than 40 other states transition to the new Common Core State Standards.

Students throughout the state will take practice exams in English/language arts and math as part of the new standards, a revamped set of initiatives that place premiums on critical thinking, writing and problem-solving.

Scores will not be reported to the state Department of Education until the 2014-15 school year.

The Laguna Beach Unified School District board approved 72 Chromebooks for each of the four schools at a total cost of $96,000, human resources and communications director Leisa Winston wrote in an email. The Chromebooks will supplement other computers, such as those in school labs, that students may use to take the tests.

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Chromebooks have several purposes, including basic word processing, research and collaborative projects using Google Docs, and are compatible with the new online assessment system, Winston said.

Administrators at each school determine which classes use Chromebooks, a decision generally based on teacher readiness, Winston said.

Chen's class received the computers at the beginning of February and have practiced on them as much as three times a week.

If students ran into problems during the test, they raised their hands for Chen to help. But they will not have that luxury during the real testing, said Darlene Messinger, district assistant superintendent of instructional services.

"It's definitely scary," Chen said when asked to describe the difference from the paper-and-pencil exams of previous years. "I think kids adapt very well. It gives teachers a sense of where [the students] are as opposed to a score or a number."

Students tackled questions that asked them to add a square to a diagram so the perimeter increases and drag numbers into boxes to complete a multiplication problem.

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