Tuesday, May 19, 2015

IPads: Could CCSD Find Better Uses for $20 Million?

Two years ago the Charleston County School District made this statement about its Department of Personalized Learning:
Charleston County School District is the recipient of one of only sixteen Race to the Top - District grants from the United States Department of Education in Cohort One (2012). As a national grantee, CCSD was awarded $19.4 million to transform traditional learning environments to learner-centered environments in our schools. With this funding, CCSD is supporting the continued development of a Personalized Learning system in 19 schools, with the vision of expanding this work to schools across the district. [italics mine]
As part of its carrot-and-stick approach, the US Department of Education required the district to implement Common Core. Here is another example of educrats pouring millions of taxpayer dollars into far-flung classrooms for unproven results.

Perhaps the educrats did not mean to sneer at present "traditional learning" versus "learner-centered" enviroments.Most teachers would respond, "I thought my classroom was already learner centered"!

Certainly, using iPads makes a school district look modern, with-it, and up- to-date.  Unfortunately for educrats, some of us can remember that computers in the classroom were the solution to individualized learning. Hey, it wasn't that long ago!

Guess what: after all the millions spent on computers and the required infrastructure, educrats cannot show they have improved student learning! On the other hand, various education-related companies (AKA edublob--can you say "Pearson"?) have grown fat.

As they did with computers, students may enjoy using another tech gadget, but is the role of the school district to spend millions on technology or to improve student learning? In a recent article on this topic, CCSD provides us with anecdotes from Goodwin Elementary but does not show us that overall student achievement has improved--with or without iPads. Now the Charleston Teacher Alliance has called into question whether increased use of gadgets actually increases student achievement and want more flexibility in the classroom.  Even the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, another part of the edublob, couldn't find corroborating data.

Wouldn't those in the classroom every day have a better handle on what works? Not according to CCSD's director of Personalized Learning, Kristen Brittingham, who oversees but has never been on the front lines of teaching herself. Brittingham, whose career is all about implementing technology, confidently sweeps aside teachers' concerns. (I'm tempted to call her "Ms. Biggity.") Basically, her remarks boil down to, "Full speed ahead with our plans, We've got the money. Who cares about what classroom teachers think. They're probably just a bunch of middle-aged Luddites."

One important question for a new superintendent should be, "Will you take classroom teachers' opinions as seriously as those of specialized flunkies?"

1 comment:

Tony Geinzer said...

I feel as much as the shine would wear off the iPads, I wonder if outsiders have started to look at Charleston County's Actual Education as Worse if not worse than some big cities like Chicago or Detroit. With South Carolina being more of a zoo by the day, if they could dismantle SC State, couldn't Charleston County not be that far afoot?