Finding Good News in Cobb County

Article excerpt

The best thing to happen to one-to-one computing this year was Cobb County. Sure, almost every single part of the program went wrong, but that's precisely my point.

Let me backtrack and cover the basics before I explain. Georgia's Cobb County School District has more than 100,000 students in 110 schools. In 2003, it passed a sales tax referendum to bring in about $70 million to update the district's technology. Officials created the Power to Learn initiative, and intended to buy 63,000 laptops to give to teachers and students in grades 6-12. After choosing Apple computers, the district started buying more than 7,000 laptops. When someone complained about the bid process, the school board requested an investigation. In July, a Superior Court judge stopped the program. The next month, Superintendent of Schools Joseph Redden resigned, and now a Grand Jury may investigate the bidding process.

So when most people, including our own columnist last month ("Laptop Woes," Gary Stager, Oct. 2005), think this is a major step back for school technology programs, why do I see it differently?

While I agree Cobb County's experience will make it more difficult for other districts to implement similar programs, I think it should be harder to start these programs.

Leaving aside the politics and potential bid rigging in Cobb County, from what I read the district never made a strong case for the educational value of this program. Sure Virginia's Henrico County Schools has run a one-to-one program for years, but that doesn't mean every district should. Cobb County's Power to Learn initiative talked about incremental gains in teachers' use of computers, a modest boost in students looking up information on the Internet and other mundane benefits. …