Tuesday, May 1, 2012

15 DISTRICTS RECEIVE CLASSROOM TECHNOLOGY GRANTS TO CREATE 21ST CENTURY CLASSROOMS

In March, after the State of Idaho passed the Students Come First reform laws, the J.A. and Kathryn Albertson Foundation donated $21 million to help create a 21st century learning environment in every classroom in every Idaho school. The grant money will be used specifically to fund a pilot of the Schoolnet instructional management system in 15 Idaho school districts before Idaho provides the tool to every classroom teacher.

The 15 school districts and public charter schools awarded are: New Plymouth, Sugar-Salem, Meridian, Cassia County, Lake Pend Oreille, Richfield, Minidoka County, Kuna, Buhl, Kimberly, Boundary County, Melba, Lakeland, Coeur d’Alene, and Anser Charter School.

“I am excited to partner with the J.A. and Kathryn Albertson Foundation to provide these Students Come First technology grants to help create the 21st Century classroom in every classroom across Idaho,” Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna said. “With these grants, Idaho teachers now have access to the current, accurate data they need to individualize instruction and raise academic achievement for every child.”

A component of the Idaho System for Education Excellence (ISEE) statewide longitudinal data system, Schoolnet (or ISEE Phase II) is a robust instructional management system. Schoolnet provides Idaho teachers with a single portal through which they can access current student information; track student progress; gain instant feedback on student performance; view and assess student growth; collaborate with other teachers; create, access, and share online lesson plans that meet standards; and access high-quality, standards-aligned digital content from leading education content partners like Discovery Education; all while reducing redundant data entry tasks and minimizing paperwork. Additionally, Schoolnet offers parental access to important student information, such as student growth reports, and allows parents to play a greater, more informed role in their children’s educations.

The state has been working for two years to identify this type of innovative technology that Idaho teachers and school leaders can use to ensure all Idaho students graduate from high school prepared to go on to postsecondary education and the 21st century workforce. The Schoolnet instructional management system was chosen last year after a rigorous selection process conducted by classroom teachers, school administrators, parents, school board trustees, and representatives of the business community.

Because of seed money from the Albertson Foundation, some functions of the instructional management system—such as access to content standards and lesson-planning tools—are currently available in every classroom across the state today. The 15 selected school districts will pilot additional tools that allow teachers to immediately assess students, monitor academic progress, and guide instruction on a daily basis. These tools will be rolled out to all schools statewide in the future.

Superintendent Luna visited several school districts in Idaho to present their grant awards. Here are pictures from that trip and a look at how some of the 15 grantee districts will use their grant funding to promote effective learning in their classrooms.


  

Buhl

Buhl School District received a $100,000 grant. In addition to Schoolnet implementation, administrators in the Buhl school district plan to use some of their grant money to buy projectors, allowing them to turn their whiteboards into interactive whiteboards. They will also be using the money to purchase some mobile computing devices for teachers and students to use in the classroom. In accepting the district’s award, Popplewell Elementary School Principal Ron Anthony explained to his young students, “We’ve got good plans, big plans, to use this [grant] in the school district to increase the technology use…You guys are the lucky ones because you are going to get it for the rest of your career.”


  video
Watch Principal Anthony Share His Plans





Cassia

The Cassia County School District received a $194,600 grant. Cassia is an example of the geographical challenges that schools in our large, rural state face. Superintendent Gaylen Smyer explains: “Our school district is geographically larger than the state of Delaware.” Coordinating and collaborating with its rural schools is a task that will be made easier by Schoolnet. Smyer shared his excitement about the capacity to support high-quality instruction in the Cassia County Joint School District, saying Schoolnet will “allow you, in a very meaningful way, to improve and individualize your instruction.”





Coeur d'Alene

The Coeur d’Alene School District received a grant of $249,919.84. District Superintendent Hazel Bauman said the district plans to use its grant money to hire “really good technology teachers,” who will learn the ins and outs of Schoolnet so they can instruct other teachers on how to get the most out of technology use in their classrooms. One teacher expressed excitement that, through Schoolnet, parents will soon be able to pull up student achievement information and stay better informed about how their students are doing. Some students, however, were less excited about the prospect of their parents checking in on their attendance and missing assignments.

Watch Superintendent Bauman Discuss Her District's Plans





Meridian

Joint School District No. 2 in Meridian received a $250,000 grant. Superintendent Linda Clark looks forward to what the additional grant money will allow her district to accomplish with Schoolnet. “This is a very significant amount of money,” said Clark, “and will enable us continue the work we’ve done to try to ensure that the data that gets uploaded into the ISEE system is correct, accurate.” Meridian plans to use the grant money to fund curriculum and assessment work as the district continues to align its materials to the Common Core State Standards and Idaho Standards. Clark was also pleased with the tools and content—especially content from Discovery Education—that would be available to her teachers through Schoolnet. “We are thrilled that the state has put content on there already and really, really thrilled about the Discovery announcement,” Clark said. “Most important of all is training teachers in how to use it to improve student achievement. That’s what it’s really all about…We are just looking forward to making really great use of this.”

video
Listen to Superintendent Clark Share Her Plans for Grant Use





Minidoka

The Minidoka County School District received a $150,000 grant. In Minidoka, Superintendent Scott Rogers asked his young students whether they “really like the iPads” they received. The answer was obvious from the cheers that erupted. Minidoka plans to hire staff to provide professional development to teachers so they can master the Schoolnet software. Training is already going on at the leadership level in Minidoka and will soon be available for teachers. School Board Chair Brian Duncan was pleased that, for the first time, the district would be able to provide teachers with real-time time data, allowing them to avoid grading stacks of paper and to know instantly how students have done. “We are excited,” said Rogers. “This is going to help us move forward and become a world-class school district.”

video
Watch Superintendent Rogers Discuss His District's Grant


Watch School Board Chair Brian Duncan Share About Schoolnet





Sugar-Salem

The Sugar-Salem School District received a $100,000 grant. The district will use its grant funding to finish a task it began some time ago—setting up and adding key hardware, like projectors and laptops, to create 21st century learning environments in its classrooms. It will also provide professional development to teachers to facilitate the use of Schoolnet. This will include helping teachers align curriculum to Common Core State Standards, which are an integral part of Schoolnet, and working with teachers on entering in lesson plans and other materials that are integrated with Schoolnet. Sugar-Salem will also be developing end-of-course assessments that will allow them to compare the performance of its students to the performance of students in other districts “If we’re not aligning our curriculum and aligning how we teach in the classroom to how the students are accustomed to receiving information, we’re not going to reach them as well as we could,” said Sugar-Salem High Principal Mark Gee. “We feel in Sugar-Salem that while it’s extremely important to have a highly qualified teacher that knows how to deliver this material, there needs to be a technological aspect to it in order for us to really reach the students on the level where they’re expecting that kind of education.”

video
Watch Principal Gee Explain Sugar-Salem's Approach to Technology




Here is the full list of grantees and the amount each district received:





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