School’s S.T.A.T. initiative analyzed
Consultants make recommendations
Overall, Baltimore County Public School students say they like using their computer devices in class as part of the continuing roll out of the Baltimore County Public School system’s S.T.A.T. technology-in-the-classroom initiative.
Students are also engaged in the S.T.A.T (Students and Teachers Accessing Tomorrow) learning activities, according to a mid-year evaluation of the program presented by Johns Hopkins University consultants to the Board of Education’s curriculum committee on Thursday, Feb. 16.
But students also reported problems with slow Internet connections and difficulty accessing some Internet sites, according to a 27-page PowerPoint presentation to the committee.
“That was the biggest theme that came through,” said Hopkins consultant Jennifer Morrison about the results of the student survey section of the presentation.
The Hopkins consultants recommended proactive monitoring and fixing of technology problems, one of a number of suggestions in the PowerPoint summary and in the full 90-page report
posted on the school system website.
The Baltimore County school system is now halfway through its third year of phasing computer use into classrooms across all grade levels. The intent is to equip students for work in the digital and global economy.
More than 30 schools around the county are currently participating, including:
• Colgate Elementary and Sparrows Point Middle in Dundalk;
• Stemmers Run Middle and Chesapeake High in Essex;
• Hawthorne Elementary in Middle River;
• Chase Elementary in Bowleys Quarters;
• Vincent Farm in White Marsh;
• Joppa View Elementary in Perry Hall; and
• Halstead Academy and Harford Hills in Parkville.
Some students said they like spending time on their devices, wihile others wanted more interaction with other students.
The Hopkins consultants recommended that the devices be used by pairs or small groups of students to help foster student interaction.
The consultants also cited a need for teachers to fine a balance between instructing and presenting information to students and functioning as coaches who help students use their computers to find information and solve problems for themselves.
Some school board members have questioned whether the continuing multi-million dollar investment in the S.T.A.T. pro- gram is showing any signs of having boosted student performance on tests.
Grades 1 through 3 results for English and math on the MAP (Measure of Academic Progress) tests showed steady improvement since S.T.A.T. started in the 201415 school year, according to the PowerPoint presentation.
However, grade 3 results in English and math for the PARCC (Partnership for the Assessment of Readiness for College and Career) tests went from slightly above the state average in the 2014-15 school year to slightly below the state average in the 2015-16 year.
Hopkins consultant Steven Ross said that “just because you introduce devices doesn’t mean that scores are going to go up.”
He said that the S.T.A.T. program is not interfering with achievement and that the results so far are “not even statistically significant.”
It’s not the devices that will improve outcomes, it’s how they are used, Ross said. The goal is still to continue improving the quality of instruction.
Role of S.T.A.T. teachers
Also part of the report were the results of a survey of classroom teachers about the effectiveness of S.T.A.T. teachers assigned to help them integrate computer use into lessons.
The majority of classroom teachers found the S.T.A.T. teachers to be available and responsive and their instruction to be very helpful, especially if it was provided on a one-on-one basis, according to the report..
Classroom teachers have also been learning how to integrate technology into coursework through training workshops, analysis of data, working on a teacher development plan, observing other classrooms and watching the S.T.A.T. teachers demonstrate various techniques.
The teachers suggested that S.T.A.T. teachers introduce techniques and strategies in smaller batches, giv
ing time for mastery, before moving on to the next batch.
“That way I feel I can get better at one, and then move on to others, rather than feel like I have 20 resources to implement that I don’t even know where to begin,” said one classroom teacher in the report.
One problem with the training, however, is that the specialized S.T.A.T. teachers are sometimes being asked to also cover classes as a substitute teacher, address student behavior problems or take on administrative duties, said teachers.
The Hopkins consultants recommended that the role of the S.T.A.T. teacher be narrowed to focus just on instruction. They also recommended a more formal evaluation of their skills and activities.
Several board members asked for comment about how the technology initiative was progressing.
The consultants said it is headed in the right direction, noting that Baltimore County system is ahead of some other systems, where some teachers have resisted changes in the classroom.
“It’s off to a good start,” said Ross about the S.T.A.T program. “There’s a good foundation, but there’s a lot more to do.”
To see past reports and the mid-year Power Point and full report, visit the www.bcps.org home page and go to Academic Focus/ S.T.A.T — the Move to Digital Learning. Scroll down the left side of the page to S.T.A.T. Independent Evaluation and click on More.