One district used these data to help with a budget override to increase its bandwidth by showing the need for such a project. Another district used the data to restore a computer course that had been required for all seventh-grade students at one time. Yet another district realized that even though it had a one-to-one computing environment, students did not have basic technology literacy. District officials made a concerted effort to ensure their students learned with the computers through more curriculum-based projects that helped boost students’ tech literacy skills.
In the second year of the assessment, the 52 districts requested that we collect additional data about the degree to which students have access to computers outside the school day. This information also proved quite valuable to the districts involved. Many are considering implementing a computer take-home program using computers that have been replaced to help those students who do not have home access. Others are considering a one-to-one laptop program that will allow students to take their computer home regularly. Some are providing after-school access to their computer labs for both students and their families.
One of our goals from the beginning of this project was for the department’s internal evaluator to compare students’ technology literacy assessment results to their achievement data. This task proved extremely interesting. Small but positive correlations were discovered between the two, and a formal research paper detailing these correlations and possible applications for future study will be forthcoming.
One of the issues we’ve grappled with is how to be prudent and transparent with the results from this assessment, while at the same time protecting the districts. With an emphasis on school improvement and reaching student achievement goals, the Arizona Department of Education’s ed-tech division has encouraged districts to use the data as they would like. However, these data have only been reported as broad, aggregated figures thus far, so as not to cause an undue burden on districts to defend their results. The data suggest that the percentage of fifth-grade students who were technology proficient increased from 27 percent in 2006 to 37 percent in 2007–and for eighth-graders, the percentage jumped from 36 percent in 2006 to 54 percent in 2007.
Working with a steering committee, we are considering how to release these data in their proper context. Soon, we will be revising our Long-Range Educational Technology Plan and will use these data as an important guide.
What started out as an accountability project for EETT grants has turned out to be a catalyst for a great deal of change in our state. The information gleaned during these assessments has generated rich guidance for school, district, and state ed-tech leaders and has driven the professional development of Arizona educators. As long as that one sentence requiring eighth-grade technology literacy is present within NCLB, Arizona will continue to take advantage of the opportunity to prepare students to meet the challenges of the high-tech world they are a part of.
Cathy Poplin is the Deputy Associate Superintendent for Educational Technology for the Arizona Department of Education.
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