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Editorials - Pickens Progress Online

Board approves 300 new laptops for teachers

Sex Education materials available for preview online
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    Transportation technician Nathan Hamby was recognized at last week's BOE meeting for placing 5th in the statewide technician workshop.  The top two technicians from each area RESA are invited to attend the state competition, which consists of a written test and a four-station hands-on competition.  (From left to right:  school board members Dan Fincher, Wendy Lowe, Byron Long, Superintendent Lula Mae Perry, Nathan Hamby, school board members Mike Cowart, Peggy Andrews). 

 

By Eileen Steinhauer
Progress contributor
     Upon the request of newly hired Technology Director Patrick Shea and Superintendent Lula Mae Perry, the Pickens  Board of Education voted to approve the purchase of 300 new laptops for the certified classroom teachers at their August meeting.


    Shea, who started working for the district in early August, last Thursday presented the proposal for new teacher laptops as the most immediate need of the school system.
    “In order to provide the most secure and efficient system, we must replace our teachers’ laptops,” said Shea.
    The proposed cost of the new Dell laptops is $975 per computer, which includes a three-year warranty on all hardware, basic insurance, 8 GB of RAM, an i5 processor, a docking station, and a carrying case. The new laptops will have a total cost of approximately $300,000 with the money coming from the school’s sales tax (SPLOST) revenue.
    Many of the computers within the school district are operating on a Windows XP system.  Microsoft recently dropped all tech support for Windows XP, which leaves computers vulnerable to security and operating issues. 
    “We would like to update all computers in the district to Windows 7, which is more manageable and secure,” said Shea.
    The plan to upgrade all computers will start with the teacher laptops.  Current laptops will be refurbished and reused somewhere in the school district if possible.  
    Once teacher laptops have been replaced, technology staff will focus on updating the remaining desktop computers. 
    Following the computer upgrades, Shea would like to focus on making all classrooms throughout the school system equal in terms of technology.  In order to achieve this, the technology staff will focus on installing, replacing, or updating projectors in all classrooms.
    “Not all classrooms will need projectors,” said Shea.  “This phase will focus on bringing all classrooms up to the same level of teaching and learning.”
    A proposed budget was not yet passed for the projector project.
    A certified, special education teacher, Shea comes to Pickens County from Cherokee County, where he worked within the Cherokee school district technology department for 13 years.  Prior to his experience in there, he worked in the corporate world as an instructional training specialist and project manager.
    “I am excited about working with the teachers, administrators, students and parents of Pickens County,” said Shea.  “The current [technology] infrastructure within the system is in great shape and has been staged correctly to handle the possible expansion and demands that the future will bring.  I see an immediate need to update classroom technology and provide teachers and students with equipment that is current and reliable.”
    After the laptop and projector updates, Shea’s next focus will be in the area of interactive technology for classrooms, which may include interactive white boards, video conferencing, and other interactive learning devices. 
    “All future technology projects will be aligned with the curriculum being taught in the classroom so that students will experience and appreciate how technology can play an important role as a learning tool not as a learning solution,” said Shea.

Student Testing Changes
    The CRCT is now a thing of the past.  In its place students in grades 3 through 8, will now take the Georgia Milestones Assessment System.  Georgia Milestones will also replace high school end of course tests (9th grade Literature and Composition, American Literature and Composition, Coordinate Algebra, Analytic Geometry, Physical Science, Biology, US History, and Economics).
    Georgia Milestones is a new test being developed only for the state of Georgia.
    At one point, leaders in the state of Georgia planned to use PARCC, Partnership for Assessment of Readiness of College and Career, which was a common-core aligned test used by 14 states and Washington, DC.  But state leaders chose to opt out of PARCC due to the cost.
    Still aligned with a common-core curriculum, the intent of the new test will be to better challenge Georgia students so  they are ready to compete against students of all states.  In addition, the hope is that results of the Milestones test will allow educators to better compare Georgia students to students throughout the country. 
    One immediate change from the CRCT to Milestones is that students in grades 3, 5, and 8 will no longer take a separate writing assessment. Instead, reading, language arts, and writing will all be combined into one test portion of Milestones.  Students will also be tested in mathematics, science, and social studies. 
    Another difference in the Milestones test is that students will be asked to answer more constructed response questions.  In these types of questions, students will not only be asked to answer a question but will also need to answer how or why they answered a particular way.
    For the first year, 30 percent of students in all schools will be required to take Georgia Milestones on the computer.  Within 5 years, 100 percent of students will be taking Milestones online.
    Georgia Milestones is part of Georgia’s initiative to have a better means of determining students’ growth.  Student growth indicators are 50 percent of a teacher’s overall assessment in the newly adopted teacher evaluation program, Teacher Keys Effectiveness System (TKES).   
    For grade levels and classes not tested through the Georgia Milestones program, a testing system entitled Student Learning Objectives (SLO) has been adopted.  The purpose of SLO is to show a teacher’s impact on a student’s learning. A student will take a SLO at the beginning of the year and again at the end of the year.  The result is intended to show how much a teacher’s instruction influenced what a student learned during the year. 
    In Pickens, a SLO test has been created for 30 different classes, including kindergarten through third grade, French, Spanish, Physical Education, Music, and Art.  Many students have already taken their beginning course SLO. 
    For the 2014-2015 school year, all teachers, whether they teach a course or grade level that has a Georgia Milestones test or a SLO, must have one growth measure assessment.  Next year, all teachers will have to have two growth measures, which means they will be responsible for two SLO measurements. 
    The SLO tests are considered growth measure tests.  All of the SLO tests given this year have been created by teachers within the county and submitted to the state.
    “Our overall submission of SLO materials was strong,” said Director of Teaching and Learning Dr. Sandy Greene.  “Pickens County received high praise from the state of Georgia.”
    “With so many changes happening within our education system, I am very impressed by how our teachers are accepting change and working extremely hard to make sure our county is not only meeting but exceeding state expectations,” said Superintendent Perry.
    According to Greene, the state of Georgia is releasing information regarding the Milestones test as quickly as possible.  Parents can go to georgiastandards.org and gadoe.org (assessments) for current information. 
    Since the test will likely parallel the PARCC test, parents can use the following link to access sample test questions (http://www.parcconline.org/practice-tests).  In addition, the state of New York has released some sample questions to help guide parents (https://www.engageny.org/resource/new-york-state-common-core-sample-questions).
Sex Education Curriculum
    Materials have been suggested for this year’s sexual education program offered at the middle and high schools.
    According to Dr. Greene, all of the intended educational materials can be reviewed online and are also available at the board of education office. 
    Parents will once again have an option for their student to participate in the program. In order for a student not to participate, a parent must complete a form opting the student out of the program. Permission forms will be sent home each semester for all students taking physical education. 
    The curriculum choices are Get Real (myrelationshipcenter.org) and the Love Well magazine (myrelationshipcenter.org) for 9-12 graders. In addition, the curriculum choices are Choosing the Best Way (6th grade), Choosing the Best Path (7th grade), and Choosing the Best Life (8th grade) for students in 6-8 grade (choosingthebest.com).

Comments   

kitty
0 #1 kitty 2014-08-22 13:31
Why not just upgrade the software? What will happen to the "old" laptops? Why not have a sale for the community taxpayers?
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Ell
0 #2 Ell 2014-08-26 00:09
$300,000 for new laptops but got a special waiver for increased class sizes. I guess I have a different interpretation of fiscally responsible!
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SadSakTaxpayer
0 #3 SadSakTaxpayer 2014-08-26 13:04
[quote name="kitty"]Wh y not just upgrade the software? }

- WHAT? - UPGRADE SOFTWARE ?? when it would only save $200,000 or so? Have you lost your mind - What are you thinking, they've got to spend all they can !! It's an ingrained thingy.

Don't worry about it - it's only taxpayer money.
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kitty
-1 #4 kitty 2014-08-27 14:02
We need a full accounting of this project, printed in the Progress, of why these are needed, why they can't have software upgrades and the disposition of the "old" laptops paid for by taxpayers in detail. Who are we buying these computers from? Does anyone have any special relationships with said vendor?

I would rather see more classes in science and math --for the students, not new toys for the teachers.
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