By Michelle Chance

The days of struggling with a burdensome assessment system will be over for teachers and students at Maricopa Unified School District beginning next school year.

At least, that is the plan.

The MUSD School Board approved the new platform called SchoolCity, which will replace the troubled Galileo instructional system teachers complained was plagued with problems. They said testing was interrupted often when servers would crash.

“You can imagine what happens when a teacher is in the middle of testing with 25 kindergarteners and the system goes down and you have to wait for it to reboot,” said Wade Watson, curriculum director.

The new system offers a solution: cloud-based servers. Watson explained when a server within a cloud becomes full, clients are transferred to one that is not – hopefully resulting in uninterrupted test-taking.

The district hopes it has solved the technology issues, but what about the cost?

The upcoming school year will be an expensive one for MUSD with the purchase of an estimated $1 million new math curriculum and the new assessment platform.

According to district documents, the cost to purchase SchoolCity will be $81,825 for the 2017-2018 school year.

Prior to approval, MUSD did its research. First, it interviewed about 10 assessment vendors, eventually narrowing the candidates down to SchoolCity and one other system.

Then, 60 teachers across the district piloted the two platforms in their classrooms. After the trial period was over, survey results concluded teachers prefer SchoolCity.

Shelly Fisher, a second grade teacher at Pima Butte Elementary School, said, “A lot of teachers in our building piloted the assessment programs as well as the math curriculum.”

She expressed concern that teachers’ back-to-school time next school year will be taken up with learning the new systems. She suggested the district offer summer training sessions.

“The more time we have to learn these new systems, the better we will be able to implement them,” Fisher said.

Assessment platforms not only provide online testing, but Watson said they also compile data the district reports to the state. That includes student achievement, the statistics that affect teacher evaluations and grant funds.

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