OLD TOWN — Students at an Old Town magnet school could have been done with recent standardized tests in less than a week, but Internet woes forced the school's principal to step in — and the tests ended up monopolizing nearly a month of school.
LaSalle Language Academy Principal Elisabeth Heurtefeu said teachers have already been complaining that standardized tests take up too much classroom time, so the Internet bandwith problem is even more of a headache.
On Sept. 6 and 7, the Northwest Evaluation Association tests were administered online at the school, but students were unable to complete the tests due to system crashes and lack of bandwith.
Students read books they brought to school for three hours when the servers failed, teachers said at a recent meeting. The students have been unable to use donated laptops since they can't be on the Internet at the same time without running into service issues.
“We bought and donated a lot of laptops for the school over the years and they can’t be used,” said John Falck, a LaSalle Language Academy parent and local school council member. “The testing has taken over a month.”
Heurtefeu said the tests were scheduled to be administered by teachers in their classrooms, and should have been wrapped up in a week. Instead, it took Heurtefeu 18 days to pull kids out of class intermittently and administer the tests herself.
She added that it would be difficult for students who missed portions of classes while testing with her to catch up with the rest of the class.
The new contract agreement between CPS and the teacher’s union mandates a number of tests to be administered at the start of the school year and again at the end of the year in the spring, but includes optional dates for testing mid-year in January.
Heurtefeu said those optional dates are “highly recommended” by CPS, and she anticipates the school will add additional T1 high-speed lines before January.
"The dialogue I had with IT services was productive," Heurtefeu said. "They conducted several tests and sent an engineer who recommended installation of additional T1 lines before December. So we will be fine next time the testing comes around."
Falck, who is a member of the school council’s technology committee, said that CPS officials added LaSalle Language Academy to a list of schools that are slated to get high-speed fiber-optic Internet lines installed. He hopes the lines will be installed by the end of the school year.