SHS Recipient of Whole School Technology Transformation Grant

By Sue Moore

Schoolcraft Community Schools administrators were notified at the end of January that Schoolcraft High School is one of 14 schools in the state to receive part of a $5 million whole-school technology grant administered by the Genesee Intermediate School District (GISD).

“This grant will provide the state with the ability to study the total cost and impact of providing full-on, digital access to personalized learning opportunities for more than 5,000 students from the across the state,” said Venessa Keesler, deputy superintendent of education services for the state Department of Education, in a statement.

Keesler said the choices came following completion of “a rigorous criteria selection process by using data provided by the MDE, MiSchoolData, and the Center for Educational Performance and Information.”

Data gathered during the blind criteria selection process — reviewed by the state Department of Education’s internal auditor — included different population sizes, grade levels, school districts and percentages of free and reduced lunch students.

Luke Wittum, director of technology and media services for the GISD, said they teamed with a group including representatives from the West Shore, Wexford-Missauke, Kalamazoo Regional Educational Service Agency, Kent ISDs, given only the names of the 87 ISDs that applied but no school or district names to ensure “a geographic and economic diversity.”

With a minimum of five schools to be chosen, Wittum said following analysis of potential costs per pupil money was left over. So what they thought might work out to be 10 turned into 14 schools. Money spent per school — including professional development and data projectors in each classroom — will not be known until meetings are completed with officials in each building and district. Technology upgrades are expected to be implemented by the beginning of the 2014-15 school year, “We’re really excited to start working with these schools that were selected to positively impact student learning at these sites and transforming student learning in these classrooms,” said Wittum.

Wittum said ISDs in the chosen districts will be doing a limited study over the course of the next one to two years to find out the impact of the funding, which GISD spokesman Jerry Johnson said was important to learn about instruction use of the tools provided to schools.

The grant provides $5 million dollars to transform at least five (5) sites across the state into 1-to-1 learning environments GISD selected 14 sites from around the state.  Each site will benefit by ensuring they have:  a robust wireless network, classroom technology (i.e. data projector), devices for every student, devices for teachers, Training for teachers on how to use their new technology to transform instruction and methods to promote any time, any place learning, and technical support.

GISD will collect and share with the rest of the state any best practices learned from this program in regards to transforming classrooms to be a 1-to-1 learning environment.

Dr. Stitt, Superintendent of Schools, said, “This is a great opportunity for our school district and most importantly our high school students.  This grant will help us move towards meeting our vision of becoming a 21st century school district where students are fully engaged in the learning process using technology, collaborating and working together in groups, and mastering the academic content by using 21st century competences such as problem-solving and critical thinking.”

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