Kentucky’s Jefferson County Public Schools, Arizona’s Dysart Unified School District, and Georgia’s Liberty County School System will be honored as this year’s Salute Districts by NSBA’s Technology Leadership Network.
In addition, Township High School District 214 in the Chicago suburbs earned the NSBA’s Trailblazer Award, a distinction that recognizes previous Salute Districts that continue to set a high standard for technology integration in education.
District 214 was named as a TLN Salute District in 2000— and has been making strides ever since. For instance, curriculum analyses found that more than 93 percent of lessons adhered to separate educational technology standards developed by the International Society for Technology, noted educators Mike Eisenberg and Bob Berkowitz, and the U.S. Department of Labor.
For teachers, students, and staff that’s meant a cutting edge robotics program partnered by locally-based Motorola that leads students through challenging lessons and possible careers in digital circuitry and electronic design. Students who enroll in the rigorous Health Careers Pathways can actually earn a Certified Nursing Assistant or Emergency Medical Technician certificate at the end of the four-year program, thanks to a Smart Learning Environment that utilizes digital curriculum and issues laptops to every student.
The district also offers its teacher professional development opportunities that include hands-on teacher training, dedicated instructional technology staff at each building, intra-district professional learning communities, and collaborative articulation initiatives with neighboring districts that are sustained through the use of Web 2.0 tools.
Now serving nearly 24,000 students, Dysart Unified’s enrollment has more than tripled in the last decade, making it the fastest growing district in Arizona and the second fastest in the country.
Dysart has remained committed to technology, as illustrated by their recent decision to update 3,000 old computers with open source software systems, enabling the support of new applications and technologies but for $125,000 less each year than brand-new computers.
Dysart also has moved away from paper-based methods to purchase products, hire staff, and even take attendance, and in the process saved time and money.
At Jefferson County Public Schools–Kentucky’s largest school district with an enrollment of nearly 100,000 students– teachers and principals are given laptops and each classroom features student computers, digital projects, and in many instances, interactive whiteboards, student response systems and wireless slates.
But Jefferson County’s investment in technology goes beyond the latest tools and devices and permeates every part of the system’s operations and culture, including online journals and blogs as homework assignments; shared teacher resources like pacing guides and instructional materials; online tutorials, coaching, and practice activities for staff on work-related projects; and community surveys to gauge and engage the public.
“School board members and district leaders in Jefferson County realize that technology is essential to provide the kind of differentiated instruction that will help each child reach his or her potential,” said Ann Flynn, NSBA’s Director of Education Technology. “Because their technology investments are an integral part of the district’s overall vision and operational strategy, we are delighted to showcase their accomplishments as one of NSBA’s 2011 TLN Site Visits in May, 2011.”
In the process of developing its three-year technology plan in the spring of 2008, the Liberty County School System in southeast Georgia, discovered a digital divide existed between the available technology and its support models. And thus began the Technology Advisory Board (TAB), a committee of building administrators, district technology staff, and instructional technology coordinators that meet quarterly to assess existing and effective use of technology in the classroom and throughout the district and establish future goals.
At each meeting at least one National Education Technology Standard is discussed and demonstrated, and one technology tool is highlighted and used to demonstrate effective integration in the curriculum.
Liberty’s targeted efforts appear to have paid off. Since TAB’s inception, the district has seen an 80 percent increase in the number of schools engaging in technology initiatives, a 166 percent increase in the number of teachers working with instructional technology specialists, and a marked move (43 percent) by administrators to utilize two-way electronic communication tools like blogs to dialogue with their constituents.
The four districts will be honored at NSBA’s 2010 T+L Conference, Oct. 19 to 21 in Phoenix. Each Salute District shares their accomplishments with T+L attendees through a special display in the Education Excellence Fair. Salute Districts are excellent examples of the good things that can happen when technology efforts are well executed.