Nearly 25 percent of rural school districts in Ohio administered exams online this year, a higher percentage than any other type of district in the state, according to a story by The Columbus Dispatch.
This was the first year Ohio’s school districts could test students online. While 71 percent of the state’s districts gave some of their exams online, only 17 percent administered all of them digitally, including less than 15 percent of school districts in suburban areas, urban communities, and small towns. Nearly 32 percent of schools in Ohio are rural and 27 percent of students attend those schools.
The high percentage of rural districts is particularly noteworthy considering the many challenges they face in boosting access to technology and Internet connectivity. Nationwide, an estimated 70 percent of schools lack a high-speed Internet connection and a disproportionate number of those schools are in poor urban and rural communities, according to the Federal Communications Commission. Many rural districts have struggled to transition to online common-core-aligned tests due to a lack of funding. Some have relied on grants to pay for new technology and have spent years upgrading technology and bandwidth.
Bob Humble, the superintendent of Ohio’s Fairbanks Local School District, told The Columbus Dispatch that the district had all students take exams online this year to prepare for their future. “Even if we’re somewhat of a rural district, we’re trying to be a leader of all our peers,” Humble said. “We knew this was coming and it wasn’t going away. We’ve got to get these kids ready for college, and everything they are doing is online.”
A version of this news article first appeared in the Rural Education blog.