Sandy Springs Middle School Pilots New Tech Program
Ridgeview Middle School is one of several schools involved in a new technology program.
During the Fulton County Board of Education's first work session of 2013 on Jan. 8, the board heard presentations about the district’s Learning Communities model as well as new technology pilots in six schools, including Ridgeview Charter School in Sandy Springs.
Bring Your Own Technology – or BYOT – was highlighted as a pilot occurring in two elementary schools, Shakerag Elementary School and Sweet Apple Elementary. The pilot will allow students on selected days to bring their own personal technology, such as cell phones, tablets, and gaming equipment, to use during class exercises. Teachers will lead activities that encourage students to think collaboratively and creatively using their devices, with sample lessons using the devices’ calculators to solve math problems or using their Internet search engines to guide research on a topic.
“One-to-One” pilots also will be occurring in four middle schools – Autrey Mill Middle School, Crabapple Middle School, McNair Middle School and Ridgeview Charter School. The One-to-One model uses technology devices, such as tablet computers preloaded with educational content, to teach students and expand upon the curriculum. The school system is working with corporate partners (Amplify, Apple Computers and Discovery Education) to successfully integrate devices, curriculum resources and professional development to teachers.
Both pilots began Monday and run through the end of the semester. More schools are expected to come on board as technology readiness is assessed and interest is piqued.
The school board heard an update regarding the district’s sixth-month-old Learning Community model, which organizes the system’s 100 schools into four geographic learning communities – Central Learning Community, Northeast Learning Community, Northwest Learning Community, and South Learning Community. The reorganization provides more personalized service and effective support to be delivered to schools by the central office.
Though the model is relatively new, progress has been swift. New virtual labs have been added to all high schools, and the decentralized approach to management, which places more content area specialists in each learning community, has permitted the learning community staff to visit more schools and interact with teachers and students.
School Governance Council Elections
The Board also received an update of 20 schools’ recent School Governance Council elections.
In November, 19 schools held elections to add parents and teachers to their School Governance Councils. The councils are being formed as part of the district’s charter system model, which began its five-year term in July. These schools (called ‘Cohort 1’) will be a model for other Fulton schools to observe as, over the next four years, they elect students, parents, teachers, staff and community members to serve on their governance councils and develop innovative practices to improve student achievement.
To ensure a fair and transparent elections process, the school system developed an online election system that provided secure and anonymous voting. More than 220 candidates ran for 95 available seats in Cohort 1 schools. In addition, the school system received a $640,000 grant to support the training and coaching of principals and newly elected School Governance Council members.
South Fulton School Closures and Redistricting
A plan to consolidate three schools and redistrict schools in South Fulton was also discussed. The school board heard a presentation about the proposed closing of three elementary schools in South Fulton – Oak Knoll, Harriet Tubman, and Mt. Olive elementary schools. The aging schools are slated for closure in order to be replaced by two new schools, one to be built at the former College Park Elementary School site and another at yet-to-be-determined location. If approved by the school board, the schools would be closed after the 2013-2014 and 2015-2016 school years.
Six community forums were held in October, November and December 2012 to share information about the proposed closures and collect information to redistrict the elementary students to new schools. School system staff also asked parents for input into how new boundaries should be drawn for South Fulton middle and high schools. The revised attendance zones are necessary due to the recent opening of the new Banneker High School, which has available space due to its larger size. Middle school enrollments also were reviewed to balance the number of students among schools.