Arizona School District Copes With Growth Via Mini-Based CMI System
Maintaining order in the classroom entails more than fostering well-behaved students. In fact, imposing discipline on the vast amounts of paperwork generated by a growing curriculum and student body can be more demanding than handling the rowdiest of students.
The Chandler Unified School District (CUSD) in Chandler, Ariz., faced just such a paperwork problem a few years ago. According to Kathy Stehr, director of instructional management for the district, a population boom in Chandler, located in the Phoenix area, fueled growth in the city's schools, and teachers were almost overwhelmed with the management duties.
"In addition to standard information such as tests, student grades, progress and personal information, our teachers must maintain a variety of state-required reports and tracking systems," says Stehr. "Unfortunately, almost all instructional management tasks had to be done manually. By installing a computer-managed instruction (CMI) system running on a Hewlett-Packard HP 3000 mini-computer, we have been able to tame our paperwork."
The Making of a Problem
CUSD, which encompasses 11 elementary schools, two junior highs and one high school, serves an ethnically mixed student population of 10,000. Primarily Anglo (64 percent) and Hispanic (28 percent), the district also has black, American Indian and Pacific Island students. This results in heavy emphasis on English-as-a-second-language programs. In addition, CUSD provides an admirable range of special-education programs for physically, mentally, emotionally and educationally handicapped children.
Besides offering these specialized programs, the district has been expanding its general curriculum and struggling to effectively employ a mastery-learning approach, under which children must master certain objectives before passing a course.
Stehr asserts that CUSD was ahead of its time as far as the latter is concerned. "We implemented our continuous uniform evaluation system in the early 1970s," she says. "Teachers must maintain records for each student in language, reading and math to be sure the objectives are mastered."
And as if CUSD didn't already have its hands full, the student population began growing rapidly in the early 1980s. Stehr points out that a new elementary school has been opened in the district every year since 1981. Undoubtedly, new junior highs and high schools will be required as the elementary-school population ages.
Turning to Computers
Unfortunately, there was no districtwide computer system to help teachers contend with this expansion of the curriculum and student body. A small personal computer system served the elementary schools but was only available for test scoring and simple reports.
Teachers who sent materials via courier for processing by this system had to wait several days for test scores or reports to be returned. Scheduling, attendance records and business functions were handled by leasing time from another district--an expensive as well as slow proposition.
"When the growth began, it became obvious that we needed our own computer system to implement CMI," says Stehr. the district determined that the computer would also have to run all standard business applications and provide good word processing capabilities for clerical staff.
The committee established to select the computer system visited other school districts, studying five different computer installations in depth. Finally selected was the HP 3000 minicomputer from Hewlett-Packard Co. …