Self-Examination: New Law Means More Technology for New Tests.
Pascopella, Angela, District Administration
For years, fifth-graders in the Romulus (Mich.) Community School District scored below state averages on the Michigan Educational Assessment standardized tests in science. Only 31 percent of fifth graders were proficient in science while the statewide average for proficiency was more than 40 percent.
In the summer of 1998, the district compiled a science curriculum that emphasized incorporating language arts and math. And instead of using a textbook approach to teaching, teachers created lessons that were more "inquiry/science-kit" driven, says Patricia Adams, K-6 science coordinator in Romulus. The district also implemented Compass Learning software, aligned it with the district's curriculum in all grades and content areas, and reinforced such topics as butterflies, for example, using technology. Students now could take digital pictures of butterflies, create a slide show and write about the colorful insects.
Fast forward to the spring of 2001. Fifth graders tested above the state average, with 47 percent testing at proficient level, surpassing the statewide average of 41 percent.
In York County, Va., only 49 percent of Bruton High School Algebra I students taking the state's Standards of Learning test in 1999 were at "proficient" level, below the state average of 56 percent. While students improved the next year, with 51 percent proficient, the state average zoomed up to 65 percent, leaving the school's students even further behind.
So, administrators met with Riverdeep company officials and asked the teachers if they could change their teaching methods and integrate them with Riverdeep software. Using sample tests every week, teachers found student strengths and weaknesses, and from there, helped weaker students practice problems in lab. On the 2001 SOL test, Algebra I students were well above the state average--more than 90 percent of the students were proficient, while the state average was more than 70 percent.
These are just two examples of how administrators helped students complete a schoolroom 180[degrees], in large part, using technology.
And these are just two examples of what the federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act: No Child Left Behind law, designed to close the achievement gap between minority/ disadvantaged students from others, wants from districts across the nation.
"We're not saying this because it sounds good," says U.S. Secretary of Education Rod Paige. "This is an expectation that we could educate 100 percent of our children."
Paige himself grew up in Monticello, Miss., with a teacher as a mother and a school principal as a father. "I had two schools growing up," Paige says. "One school I went to every morning, and the school I came home to every night.... Reading and doing your homework was part of my daily life ... Education was not a part of life--It was life."
And while he learned in a segregated school system with little or no resources, such as textbooks and proper equipment, he had caring teachers. "We had people who had a level of expectation of us that was high," Paige says. "We had parents, teachers and communities that had a zero tolerance idea about learning."
Paige adds that while student growth is expected in a year, the main purpose of the law is to close the achievement gap among different students, to see students reading at their grade level by the end of third grade and to increase the number of disadvantaged and minority students attending and graduating from college.
While district administrators are still dissecting and devising plans to meet the new requirements, educators and vendors across the nation are noting the growing importance of technology.
Some studies show that appropriate use of technology increases student achievement. A study released this May marks the first time that a long-term statewide learning technology program has been assessed for its effectiveness. …