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CMS would have trouble meeting state online testing requirement

dhinshaw@charlotteobserver.com

Unless Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools gets let off the hook, the district could be in a decent bit of trouble next year with the recent North Carolina requirement that end-of-grade tests be given online.

This could be a bit surprising to people used to bubbling in Scantron sheets and scrawling essays in blue books. But the state has offered online EOGs for children in grades K-8 and end-of-course tests for high school students for several years.

CMS has a waiver this year, meaning that pencil-and-paper exams are OK. Next year, though, unless the district can get another waiver, they’ll have to find a way to get computers in every student’s hands at the end of the year.

Middle schools are in good shape. CMS has this year pushed Chromebooks for each student into all of the district’s middle schools.

Some elementary schools are OK, too, said Valerie Truesdale, the CMS chief of technology, personalization and engagement at last week’s school board meeting. CMS has also put Chromebooks in many fifth-grade classrooms.

Most high schools are a long way off.

The costs for CMS would be steep. The highest priority would be getting computers to third, fourth and 10th grades, which do not have many computers at this point. At $220 per Chromebook, and roughly 10,000 students per grade, the cost of equipping those grades would be roughly $6.6 million.

CMS might really end up having to equip fifth and ninth grades as well. That would tack on another $4.4 million – and the district might still come up short.

A number of school districts in North Carolina have protested because of the difficulty in getting enough hardware.

But Superintendent Ann Clark told the school board that it’s the state Department of Public Instruction’s “strong expectation” that districts be ready next year.

A significant expansion in the number of computers doesn’t appear to be part of the CMS budget for next year. While full details of the budget haven’t been released, it was not a priority laid out in Clark’s budget presentation last month. That means the school district might be coming to Mecklenburg County in the middle of the year for more money.

“That’s a pretty serious conversation we need to start having,” board member Ericka Ellis Stewart said at last week’s school board meeting.

Dunn: 704-358-5235;

Twitter: @andrew_dunn

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