Small communities, big visions for education | News
The University of Alabama isn’t the only school in the state coming out on top these days. Rockford, Hayneville, Demopolis, Wetumpka… Mention any of these Alabama communities and while the description that comes to mind isn’t likely to include the word “big” as part of one’s first impression, schools in these communities are posting big gains in student achievement. “Cutting edge” is another phrase you probably wouldn’t have heard in many past conversations regarding these communities either, but all of that began to change in a big way about two and a half years ago, starting with major changes in the way schools in these communities began to purposely and aggressively incorporate the latest technology into classrooms to enhance education for their students.
In Coosa, Marengo, and Lowndes counties, funding for the endeavor which began in 2010 came through school improvement grants implemented in partnership with Alabama based technology company, Information Transport Solutions (ITS). For Wetumpka Elementary and Middle schools in Elmore County, the city of Wetumpka committed $725,000 to the project which was also implemented in partnership with ITS whose headquarters are based in Wetumpka. Now, student achievement levels seem to be reflecting just how important that technology may be in preparing students for a successful future.
According to recently published data from the Public Affairs Research Council in Alabama (PARCA), significantly greater percentages of students in each of these communities are excelling on the Alabama Reading and Mathematics Test (ARMT) since the school technology transformation began. The ARMT measures student performance in the areas of reading and math for grades three through eight.
Now in the final year of the initial three year grant period, the transformation process included integrating schools with 21st Century Classrooms including white boards with projectors, document cameras and wireless slates for every grade and a One-to-One initiative allowing each student to have a laptop or iPad® for his or her individual use. But the technology equipment upgrades alone were only part of the transformation. Project CARE®, a comprehensive school reform process provided through ITS, also provides on-site training and consulting services for educators and administrators in how to most effectively integrate the new technology in the classroom while providing a formative assessment process and effective accountability measures.
“Administrative technological tools, professional development for administrators and measurement of teacher instructional growth are all benchmarks within the Project CARE process,” explained Dr. Michael Kemp, Vice President of Educational Services at ITS. “Our people are on the ground, in the school setting week-in and week-out to provide that kind of support. Technology in the classroom can only be as effective as the teacher who is using it,” continued Kemp. “We find that providing this level of on-going training and support for educators is crucial to the success of both students and teachers.”
Perhaps the most telling story of how technology is affecting student achievement can be found simply by looking at the numbers. Since the implementation of the technology transformation in these schools, PARCA data released for Wetumpka Elementary shows that among fourth graders, 82.6% of Caucasian students in 2011-2012 scored at Level IV in math, the highest level on the ARMT, compared to only 57.7% in 2009-2010, the year prior to implementation of the new technology transformation. PARCA reports performance levels by population subgroups. Last year’s seventh grade minority students at Wetumpka Middle School outperformed the system and state in Level IV percentages for math as well.
Data for Jackson-Steele Elementary in Lowndes County indicates significant increases for both math and reading in the percentages of students scoring at Level IV compared to percentages in the pre-grant 2009-2010 school year. Among fourth graders tested in the spring at Jackson-Steele, 92.9% scored at Level IV in math compared to 50% of fourth graders in 2009-2010. PARCA data also indicates significant increases in the percentages for both minority and white subgroups of Coosa County’s Central Middle School seventh graders scoring at Level IV in reading last spring, with both subgroups outperforming the state percentages for their grade level.
Among seventh graders at John Essex K-12 School in Marengo County, the data showed a 25% increase in those scoring at Level IV in math compared to 2009-2010. Double digit gains were also seen in reading with 41.7% of John Essex seventh graders scoring at Level IV for 2011-2012 compared to just 11.8% for 2009-2010, the year prior to implementation of the new technology transformation. Similar trends can be seen in other grades as well.
With the data reflecting these types of big improvements in student achievement, other school districts across the state may begin to follow the lead of these small communities by investing in the latest technology for classrooms as a way to ensure more Alabama schools make their way into the win column when it comes to quality education for all students.
For more information, contact 334-567-1993
Source: Information Transport Solutions
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