Tuesday, March 17, 2015

WASC is Done. Future Ready Next?

Whew! All that hard work paid off, and our WASC visit went well! The Visiting Committee made recommendations, but most of those were already part of our Academic Plan for next school year. I wish I could have been a fly-on-the-wall during meetings with the Focus Groups, the parents, and students just so I could hear what they shared about our accreditation process as well as their perceptions of and experiences at our school.  I wondered whether the participants would feel comfortable about sharing if a particularly challenging question was posed to them.  I really didn't need to worry; everyone who came out of those meetings were excited to share about how positively they felt it went! Now that the Visiting Committee has made its recommendations, we need to determine the best way to ensure implementation. By the end of the visit, our WASC co-chairs and I were already discussing what our next steps are.  Truly, WASC is a reflective process that can benefit a school if it is done with fidelity and the whole school community understands the benefits.  I am appreciative that at Hale Kula, the accreditation process is valued; it validates our progress but gives us a plan to continue to improve teaching and learning so our students can achieve to their potential.

After the accreditation visit, we had a two-day training for Future Ready.  No rest for the weary! The training required a school team, and the principal was a required participant.  No problem - I wouldn't have signed us up if I wasn't committed.  As a school, we are ready for additional support to implement a 1:1 program where students use technology as a tool for learning.  We would love to be part of the next phase within our Department and to contribute to the discussion about digital leadership, personalized professional development for teachers, and personalized learning for our students.

Unfortunately, not everyone believes in the power of technology to transform student learning and engage them in learning projects that can influence their perceptions about their place in this world. Unless the State House and State Senate fund the 1:1 project as requested by the Department and the Governor signs the budget, schools like ours will have to find other resources to purchase more devices for students or continue to use what we have and hope that we have funds in the future.

The previous $8 million that was allocated to our Department for a pilot 1:1 program was an example of poor implementation, and the resulting negative publicity probably contributed to the reluctance of the Legislature to appropriate additional funds in subsequent years.  I am hopeful that the Department, realizing their previous errors, is able to convince the Legislators and the Governor about the importance of preparing our students for their future in this 21st century world.

Because, really, it is a question of equity.  All students need equal access to technology to collaborate, communicate, think critically, and create.  Is it fair for one school to have devices for every student while another school has to share a lab in order for students to access resources via technology? new building funds that helped us to purchase devices, but those funds aren't available every year. We know that Future Ready is expensive,  but how can we ensure equity so all students have access to the tools that can prepare them for college or careers?

Equity is also a factor when we test students on the Smarter Balanced Assessments. It would be interesting to see whether access to technology has a direct correlation on student or school performance on these computer-based assessments.  If students don't perform well, is it due to the content or is it because of the format of the assessment? And will schools with 1:1 devices do better because their students have access to technology every day? I am curious to see whether access to technology has a significant impact on test scores.

Our WASC Visiting Committee commended our school for our use of technology with all stakeholders.  They noted the use of technology to communicate with our community and in all classrooms by students.  In fact, one team member shared, "I see students using tech, but I don't see teachers using it." I smiled when I heard this statement because that is exactly what we want to see - students using tech to explore, discover, create, and share.  Of course, our teachers are also using tech to collaborate and communicate with each other to create lessons and interdisciplinary units based on the Common Core State Standards.

We would love to be part of the Future Ready initiative if funds are allocated for that purpose. Even if we don't receive funds, however, we will continue our journey to make learning relevant for our students using technology and other resources.

These second graders are using computers to build a community in Minecraft.  I was impressed with how much they communicated with each other to problem-solve.  

Many of our students shared their technology projects with their parents during their student-led conferences.  It was pretty impressive to see what students shared! 

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