The Education Review supplement in the Nov. 18 Post emphasized the fact that despite hundreds of studies, proposals and mandates for teacher and student improvement during the past 10 years, little, if anything, has been accomplished to improve the quality of classroom instruction. One of the major reasons for this is that we are still operating within an educational structure that is using 19th century concepts and tools to meet 21st century standards.
Businesses have been using computers and other technology for years to improve the productivity of their work force and the quality of their products. We need to be doing the same thing for education, and it's astounding how long it's taking for this realization to sink in. The advantages of computers include: Computerized tools can streamline administrative functions, so principals can be freed from the business aspects of running a school and instead focus on providing instructional leadership to teachers and students. Integrated learning systems, which combine delivery of instruction with personal student assessment and teacher management tools have documented learning improvement gains ranging from 20 percent to 100 percent and more. Computerized testing can not only reduce testing time, but also it can be linked with the school district's curriculum objectives and learning resources to help teachers identify students needs and assigning appropriate lessons or projects. Computers can do the tedious clerical tasks, such as correcting assignments, tracking student progress and recording results far faster than our current manual methods and thus free up teachers to do the more creative aspects of teaching.
The Christa McAuliffe Institute for Educational Pioneering, which is sponsored by the National Foundation for the Improvement of Education, states: "Technology can assist in activating the type of changes we endorse and must be interwoven into the fabric of schools." This does not mean simply dumping computers into schools. The process must be driven by the instructional and management needs and requires some major rethinking as to how we design a structure and a process that is best suited to meeting the needs of our society and our citizens.
To this end we need help from our district, county, state and federal leaders to find more comprehensive and integrated solutions for making this technology available to our students, teachers and administrators. We also need help from our educational leaders, research-and-development institutions and principals and teachers to find better methods of harnessing the capabilities of the technology that exists today.
An extended school year that gives us more of the same is not the answer. Let's first use our limited financial and human resources to get our schools producing the way they should. We can then gain even greater mileage from an extended school year.
MARY PAT LEASE Project Manager, Integrated School Information Systems Anne Arundel County Public Schools Annapolis