Back To The Future

As promised, technology continued…

First a little history…

After the passage of Measure Z, the district planned to build one “21stCentury classroom” in each school. The classroom would have a smart board, special lighting, hi-tech speakers, and a bunch of other cool stuff. In 2010, I asked for, and was granted, the opportunity to address these plans. An item was placed on the board agenda and, with support from many of the district’s teachers, we were able to convince the board to upgrade every classroom’s technology. Then president of the board, David Sanchez, told us that he believed technology wasn’t important except for in the high school tech classrooms. The administration was adamantly against changing course and believed upgrading every classroom would be too costly.

In the present…

The superintendent never misses an opportunity to brag about the level of technology now being employed in our classrooms. What he isn’t so quick to point out is, the classroom upgrades are being implemented in phases. The first phase, which is almost complete, was to install promethean boards (smart boards) in each classroom.  In future phases, the plan is to upgrade the computers the teachers are using to power the smart boards.

It is my understanding, many of the machines they are using do not meet the minimum specifications requirements of the smart board manufacturer and the performance of the smart boards is suffering. It has also been brought to my attention the computers in our high school’s technology classes are near obsolete. The district tells us they will eventually upgrade the smart board computers. However, finding the funds to bring the high school technology classes' machines up to date might require laying off a teacher.

Back to the future…

In last week’s board meeting, we were introduced to a new nationwide initiative,Common Core Standards , “a state-led effort to establish a shared set of clear educational standards for English language arts and mathematics that states can voluntarily adopt.” Unlike the “No Child Left Behind” initiative, which our educators told us  from the start was a failure, the Federal government was not involved in the development of this initiative. But, similar to NCLB, CCS is also unfunded.

CCS is an initiative developed by the National Association of Governors. Our Governor has told the state’s school districts these new standards will be in place by the 2014-2015 school year and there will be no financial support from the state. Beaumont Unified’s administration has jumped all in and is hoping to be part of the state’s pilot program.

A major component of the CCS is the use of technology to assess the success or failure of our kids to meet the standards. The assessment process is planned to take place over the Internet. The technology requirement will be expensive and will have to be fully funded by our local school district with no financial support from the State of California or the Federal Government. In order to be accepted into the pilot program, our district will need to begin determining the specifications of the required technology and plan the funding. For now, all technology purchases for the district are on hold.

Prepare yourself, I am about to ask some of those questions many don't want to hear and some describe as whining and negative.

If our district is unable to find the funding to deploy computers that meet the minimum requirement of our new smart boards, and they are unable to provide our technology students at the high school with current technology, where are they going to find the funds to purchase the technology necessary to join the pilot program? Can anyone say Measure Z? Will the upgrade of the smart board computers and the high school’s technology department be put on hold until after the 2014-2015 school year?

If the board does decide to use Measure Z funds to meet the technology requirements of CCS, how come they couldn’t have used the Measure Z funds to upgrade technology before? Remember, Measure Z explicitly lists the upgrade of our technology as an objective but only mentions the improvement of physical education facilities in a single sentence. Yet our school board, led by our administration, was able to put technology upgrades on hold and spend $15 million plus on a new sports facility.