Many U.S. public school systems will have to reevaluate their wide area network (WAN) strategies as national common core standards require schools to demonstrate an ability to conduct state testing online. The Farmington public school system in Connecticut has begun to prepare for these testing requirements by deploying a Metro Ethernet network from Comcast Business Services.
The network will support the districts new, all-online testing system, -- by connecting seven schools and 4,000 students in the district. The district aims to have all state test-taking online by 2014, in accordance with the state’s goals, according to Ted Lindquist, Director of Technology for Farmington Public Schools. “We are a high-performing district, and we continuously look for efficient solutions,” Lindquist said. “We needed to make sure we had a network that would handle the traffic of many students doing assessments across the district in different schools.”
Metro Ethernet network services meet network capacity demands
When Farmington’s contract with its previous provider expired, the district sought a provider that was better equipped to handle the new network capacity requirements the school district has begun to put in place.
Farmington needed a network that would not only provide greater bandwidth to support online testing across the district, but would also deliver the test results in an accurate and reliable manner, Lindquist said.
The district tested its online mathematics assessment systems last summer for grades two to six via the Comcast Metro Ethernet network. After the student completes a test, the results are immediately ready to be viewed by the teacher. The network allows the teacher to analyze all the results and decide what area the students may need additional instruction in.
“Providing teachers with the ability to do a very good and specific analysis of student misunderstandings in a case like this was very important to us,” Lindquist said. “In order for that to happen we needed to examine our new Internet infrastructure and make sure our new network could handle our new needs.”
Internet testing components are not the only pieces that Farmington teachers and students will be using the Metro Ethernet network for. The student administration system used for attendance must be available across the district, as well as the parent and student portal for viewing grades and assignments -- PowerSchool by Pearson.
“Every teacher is on this application every single day,” Lindquist said.
The Metro Ethernet network also supports Destiny, the district’s library software which connects every elementary school’s library to every high school library across the district; the network also supports learning applications like Everyday Math Games and Reading A-Z.
“Many things we do on a daily basis at the schools are Internet-based, and Comcast Business Services provides us with a solution that has a capacity that handles a lot of things all the time across the district,” Lindquist said.
Metro Ethernet networks are fast and scalable
The new network has affected operation across the district positively, and scalability and speed of delivery will matter going forward in order to ensure that the applications are being utilized by teachers, students and parents, Lindquist noted.
IT is able to monitor and examine any bottlenecks in speed -- a big difference compared to the prior technology and provider in place, he said.
“We had slower lines running to all our buildings before,” Lindquist said. “Now, if someone were to call and say the network was running slow, that could be fixed because [the Comcast] Ethernet Network Services meet our capacity goals and offer very reliable customer support.”
With a faster network students and staff are making better use of networked education technologies that once ran too slowly.
“One school in particular in the district had told us previously that the Discovery Education software [streaming educational video software that Farmington subscribes to] ran much too slow, and teachers felt as though it wasn’t worth it to use in their classrooms,” he said. “Teachers have told us that thanks to the higher speed lines, they can have their whole class in the computer lab on the Internet working with Discovery Education and other learning software.”
From a grading standpoint, teachers are also enjoying the higher speed lines as they can complete their own work over the Internet in a very timely manner, he said.
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Ethernet Network Services ensures full-time functionality for the future
School system requirements are constantly changing, and Farmington requires a network that will deliver reliable service while being fiscally responsible for the public dollar, Lindquist noted.
“As we move forward, I need to have the confidence that I have a system in place that will function in the middle of testing, and will also function reliably for everything we do,” he said. “[Comcast Metro] Ethernet Network Services provide that for us.”
Farmington Public Schools will integrate its Metro Ethernet network into its long-term strategy for online education.
“We will continue to monitor our use as our needs change and grow,” Lindquist said. “We will work with Comcast to ensure that they will continue to meet our needs by being able to increase the capacity our infrastructure will require.”
Let us know what you think about the story; email: Gina Narcisi, News Writer