The Budget: Technology and training

The Board of Education approved the 2014-15 budget request on April 8. It calls for a $32.5 million increase over last year. That increase includes $17.3 million in required spending like inflation and payouts to charter schools. The rest is made up of strategic priorities to improve instruction in our classrooms.

  • Budget Priority: Technology to improve instruction and training teachers to use it
  • Investment: $1.3 million for technology and $1.3 million for training

In five years, Metro Schools can be the highest-performing urban district in the country. Our strategic plan, Education 2018: Excellence for Every Student, lays out specific strategies to get there.

The key to the entire plan is personalized learning for every student. To do that, we must transform the way we teach and manage classrooms through technology. We are already heavily invested in that transformation thanks to the federal Race to the Top grant. By continuing our investment, we will achieve our goals.

The Metro Schools Learning Technology team is second to none in the United States. Dr. Kecia Ray, who leads the team, is the president of the International Society for Technology in Education and was recently named one of “20 to Watch in Education Technology” by the National School Boards Association.

Combined with the very best teaching, our learning technology plan will ensure our students get more instruction targeted to their specific needs and abilities.

Our learning technology plan has three key parts:

  1. Software to make classrooms more efficient
    Rather than making teachers use a half dozen or more different systems, we’ve brought together all of our computer-based instruction into a single program called SchoolNet.SchoolNet puts everything right at a teacher’s fingertips: lesson plans, standards, data, best practices and more. Further, it helps teachers report and analyze data so they can personalize instruction based on individual student needs.By making it easier to access and interpret all this information in one place, teachers save time and have a more complete picture of each student’s performance and needs.
  2. Software to personalize learning for teachers
    Personalization doesn’t stop at students. Teachers will get targeted professional development from a library of lessons called PD360. Just as the teacher analyzes a student’s performance and decides the best approach for instruction, the PD360 library can give targeted professional development aligned with each teacher’s individual needs.
  3. Online student instruction
    Mirroring many colleges and professional work environments, all Metro Schools graduates are expected to have taken at least one class online. The MNPS Virtual School offers a full slate of online courses for full- and part-time students. Teachers can also take professional development courses online. All of these online courses are delivered through software called Blackboard, which was originally funded through Race to the Top.

This technology is great and is vital to personalized learning, but what does that matter if teachers aren’t trained to use it?

Our All-Star Training program, already well underway, is the largest professional development program we’ve ever undertaken. Every single teacher in Metro Schools will finish it by July 1, 2014. It shows teachers how to make best use of the technology we provide, how to align their work with the Common Core State Standards and PARCC assessments, and how they can share their best practices and borrow great ideas from other teachers. Nearly 10 percent of our classroom teachers have already completed the training (as of early April).

When they complete the training, teachers receive a laptop. That way we give them to know-how and the tools to personalize learning for every student.

This training could soon be a national best practice. Public school districts from Memphis, San Diego and New York City, as well as private companies, have approached us about using our All-Star training.

To continue our successes and build more in the future, we must keep investing in the technology that will help get us there.

Read More in the Budget Series:
Part 1 – Prekindergarten
Part 2 – Teacher and Staff Pay Raises
Part 3 – Technology and Training
Part 4 – Literacy
Part 5 – World Class Music Education for Every Student

Metro Schools officials have a budget hearing with the Metro Council scheduled for June 4 at 4:15 p.m. in the Council Chambers. Wear blue to show your support for Metro Schools.

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