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Good Tech… and Evil Tech

February 13, 2012

Today’s NYTimes has an article on Mooresville SC where Apple computers replaced classroom teachers and the results— as measured by State tests— are astonishingly positive. My concerns about corporate takeover of public schools and the over-emphasis of state tests as metrics notwithstanding, it appears that this school district’s use of technology is exemplary. In the article the Superintendent notes that:  “It’s not about the box. It’s about changing the culture of instruction — preparing students for their future, not our past.” The article lists “lessons learned”: as follows:

Start with math lessons: each student’s MacBook Air is leased from Apple for $215 a year, including warranty, for a total of $1 million; an additional $100,000 a year goes for software. Terry Haas, the district’s chief financial officer, said the money was freed up through “incredibly tough decisions.”

Sixty-five jobs were eliminated, including 37 teachers, which resulted in larger class sizes — in middle schools, it is 30 instead of 18 — but district officials say they can be more efficiently managed because of the technology. Some costly items had become obsolete (like computer labs), though getting rid of others tested the willingness of teachers to embrace the new day: who needs globes in the age of Google Earth?

Families pay $50 a year to subsidize computer repairs, though the fee is waived for those who cannot afford it, about 18 percent of them. Similarly, the district has negotiated a deal so that those without broadband Internet access can buy it for $9.99 a month.

WHOA! Talk about making changes! Let’s hope that this isn’t used as evidence by ALEC (see next post) that outsourcing to private corporations is the way to go…

The NYTimes editorial about the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) provides fuel for the conspiracists fires. ALEC provides boilerplate wording for State legislators to draft bills that will fulfill the corporate agenda. The article reports that ALEC crafted legislation  “Encourage(s) school districts to contract with private virtual-education companies”, noting the corporate co-chair of ALEC’s education committee was the beneficiary of a bill that was signed into law.

This NYTimes story about NYC students taking a field trip to a parking garage was bittersweet… Bitter because it is sad to think that the typical Kindergartner in NYC hasn’t sat in a car and can’t go on a field trip to the country the way affluent kids in the suburbs can be exposed to the city… but sweet because, well, the story is sweet.

Common Dreams posted an article on legislation in four states (including– no surprise, NH) seeking to eliminate instruction on evolution and global warming. These are advocated by groups with wholesome names like “The Heartland Institute” and adventurous names like “The Discovery Institute”…


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