Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Ed Brand wants to spend $4 million on iPads without training teachers on how to use them

You could pay for a lot of master teachers (see my plan) with $4 million. It's the teacher that makes the difference, not the expensive program imported from outside the district.

I enjoyed reading the comments section on this article.

The iPad Proposition
By Susan Luzzaro
San Diego Reader
Aug. 22, 2012

Last February, the Sweetwater Union High School District moved forward with a controversial initiative to buy 6300 iPads for its seventh-graders. The iPads cost $4.3 million. Several months later, the district purchased iPad covers, spending $27,000, and in July, learning-management software, costing $1.1 million over six years. The district faces a $27 million deficit. As the costly experiment with new technology unfolds, many question the district’s use of funds and planning to integrate iPads into the classroom.

Sweetwater began using iPads in a pilot program last November. A select group of Hilltop Middle School students were sold the devices. A current posting on the district’s website lauds the program: “Pilot programs such as the one being implemented at Hilltop Middle School in the Foreign Language and Global Studies (FLAGS) program have proven highly successful at engaging students and in raising academic achievement.”

Despite this claim, a public records request asking whether students’ grades had improved yielded this response: “The district does not have the requested information as this is not something we are tracking.”

Money for the iPads came from several sources, including $1.8 million from Proposition O construction bond money and $1.5 million from Mello-Roos funds. Mello-Roos is a special tax assessment paid by some California communities to fund infrastructure and construction of public facilities.

Many have argued that the money raised through construction bonds should not be spent on iPads. The use of Mello-Roos funds has also been criticized, as not all Sweetwater families pay Mello-Roos taxes.

Critics of Sweetwater’s iPad program claim the devices are offered to induce students to stay in the district rather than leave for charter schools. As school budgets continue to shrink, critics question where the money for iPads will come from next year and the year after.

Nick Marinovich, chair of the Proposition O Citizens’ Bond Oversight Committee, recently wrote to the district..."[W]e repeatedly asked the District to provide a comprehensive plan on how they would continue to fund iPads over the next five years as well as how they planned to measure their success,” he wrote. “...There was no apparent metrics to analyze the effectiveness of this investment.…”

Lack of planning has been a constant thread in the iPad discussion. Melanie, an English instructor who spoke on condition that only her first name be used, was part of the pilot program at Hilltop Middle School. She experienced a number of problems. She said that teachers received only two days of iPad instruction. “We had no training in how to effectively use the iPads in our own subjects,” Melanie said.

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