Leadership for a new era of public education Part II

bsmith2030@msn.com | 6/5/2014, 2:23 p.m.
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BES: Is this elementary through high school or a combination of ages/grades? Supt. Hopson: It is mostly elementary and middle. We are doing it as a pilot program. We went out to Huntsville, Ala. a few months ago to shadow their program. They’ve implemented a similar initiative and they’ve seen tremendous gains. Los Angeles Unified Schools has also implemented a similar program. We went out there to review their implementation and they too have seen tremendous gains.   What want to do is to intentionally pick a select group of schools, pilot it, and then measure hopefully strong results, and ultimately expand it throughout the district. Increased technology, more flexibility and aligned hiring practices, and extended days where appropriate are just some of the strategies we are using.   BES: So that (implementing the new technology program and allowing kids to take the devices home) brings up the issue of safety. There are threats of damage, theft and even physical harm to students carrying expensive devices.  How is the district addressing that issue? Supt. Hopson: You ask a great question. We obviously get a chance to learn from the mistakes that Huntsville and L.A. and other places have made. All of the devices have a disabling and locating system on them. So if they are stolen or lost, the people that own the device can find out where it is. We are going to have a full professional development training session with the teachers on how to use it. The parents have to sign an agreement. We’ve reached out to the police department and the district attorney’s office to coordinate with them a campaign message to let folks know that you don’t want to be caught stealing one of these devices. If somebody gets one, it will be worthless. And because of the contract we have with the provider, they assume the risk of that.   We know that people are going to break them. People are going to try to steal them. People are going to try to misuse them. But even given that risk, the reward to our young people is extremely high and outweighs the downside.  If you are a kid and you are struggling with a subject, you can leave class and go home and work on it at your own pace. Conversely, if you are a high flyer, you can get way down the curriculum on your own and essentially challenge yourself or be challenged to do more.    The research and actual results of implementation in other places have been outstanding. In 2014, kids are using iPhones and computers, and it is just the next wave on the way we need to educate these kids and the way they are comfortable receiving information.   BES: So the next big thing in terms of educational issues and language is the whole Common Core implementation. You have acknowledged that in Tennessee we are generally going to start off very low compared to other states in Common Core assessments. Have you been able to sort of refine or assess that as it relates to Shelby County in terms of where we are going to end up or what we will look like relative to Common Core once fully implemented?