New technology eyed for schools

By Jessica Cejnar, The Triplicate February 03, 2014 05:12 pm

As it works to implement the new Common Core State Standards, Del Norte County Unified School District will use most of its extra funding to update technology at schools districtwide.

State lawmakers last year appropriated $1.25 billion to help districts adopt the new education requirements. Del Norte County Unified School District’s share is $729,000, according to Superintendent Don Olson.

Since students statewide will be assessed through online testing, the School Board on Thursday approved using $329,000 of Del Norte’s $729,000 to purchase new technology. Half of the remaining $400,000 will be used for professional development. The rest will be used for new instructional materials.

District officials will submit a detailed 
expenditure report to the California Department of Education by July 1, 2015, showing how the funding was spent, according to the Board’s staff report.

The school district is also slated to receive $400,000 in one-time funding to help schools that are in on program improvement status, according to Steve Godla, the district’s assistant superintendent of instruction and educational services.

Under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, schools must show annual progress on English-language arts and math tests and other performance standards, according to the California Department of Education. Results are separated by socioeconomic status, race, ethnicity, disability and limited English proficiency. Schools with students in groups who haven’t made enough academic growth are placed on program improvement status.

Districts receiving this extra funding are required to use it to help remedy the situation that placed their schools in that category, Godla said. Eight Del Norte County schools are currently in program improvement, he said.

“We have been told that we are receiving $400,000,” Godla said. “We’re pretty certain that it will happen, but we’ll not spend it until we get the check.”

Meanwhile, since the state’s new testing system will be computer-based, the district will purchase new laptops, iPads and Google Chromebooks along with the necessary software. Each school site did an inventory of what it currently has, and is using a formula provided by state education officials to determine what they’re missing, said Connie Gillman, Del Norte’s coordinator of elementary curriculum.

State lawmakers last fall passed a bill that discontinued the Standardized Testing and Reporting System, or STAR test, to allow schools to implement the new Smarter Balanced Assessments system. 

Del Norte students could get a taste of the new assessment system as early as March, but will not receive a score, Gillman said.

“It’s an assessment of the system and the test itself rather than of the kids this year,” she said.

The state is expected to implement the new Smarter Balanced Assessments system in the 2014-15 school year.

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