Students use Chromebooks

With the state accountability testing moving to a purely online format, McAllen ISD is getting students ready right now by introducing new Chromebooks to students in the upper grades of elementary school.

McAllen ISD’s elementary students have used the iPad for a decade but began exchanging them for Chromebooks in December. Students begin taking the annual state assessments in third grade so the Chromebook’s similarity to a laptop with a keyboard will be a huge help as they move away from pencil and paper.

Other advantages for students include:

  • Ease of use
  • Converts into tablet with touchscreen
  • Runs well on Google platform
  • Built-in webcam for virtual lessons
  • Longer battery life
  • Affordability

In addition, there will be no special setup for testing because it runs an app.

In the spring of 2023, the state assessments, known as STAAR (State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness), will no longer allow use of pencil and paper. It will be an online test only.

This matches the direction higher education is taking. College entrance exams and specialized tests like the PSAT are now taken online only.

The students began using their new Chromebooks as soon as they received them.

McAllen ISD’s Digital Learning Team created video tutorials to support students and teachers as they transitioned to the new device. The iPads which students hand in will remain in use for students in kindergarten, pre-kindergarten and Head Start. 

McAllen ISD identified this necessity and purchased 5,000 new Chromebooks in September. The endeavor was funded through McAllen ISD’s Emergency Connectivity Fund and ESSER funds.  ESSER (Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief) is part of the American Rescue Plan which provides funding to school districts nationwide to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on students’ education. 

McAllen ISD students in middle school and high school have already been using Chromebooks for several years. In fact, the district has a long tradition of embracing technology.

In 2011, McAllen ISD became one of the largest school districts in the nation to provide individual electronic learning devices to all students in all grades at every campus. The move garnered national attention.

Having a culture of using technology helped tremendously when the COVID-19 pandemic closed schools in Texas in March 2020. McAllen ISD was able to pivot immediately to an online learning environment and students did not miss a single instructional day.  

Pictured, fifth-grade students at McAllen ISD's Escandon Elementary get used to their Chromebooks on Dec. 13. 

Check out video of students getting Chromebooks at Milam Elementary: