Technology Upgrades Invigorate Struggling School

Not so many years ago Jonas Salk Middle School in Sacramento was known for its academic excellence. But over the years the school fell on hard times. Student suspensions skyrocketed. Test scores sagged as the school enrolled more students from low-income families.

Technology instructor Jamal Hicks started teaching at the school seven years ago. “It was frustrating,” he said. “I questioned why all these low-functioning kids were grouped together at this school. It was failing. It was like a whole generation of kids was being thrown away.”

When California implemented its Academic Performance Index (API) eight years ago, public schools were to move toward a target goal of 800. In 1999, Salk’s API stood at a dismal 430. The school was placed on a program improvement plan. Last year, the school API had crept up to 581 but that was down from a high of 595 in 2005.

The San Juan Unified School District (SJUSD)realized it faced the possibility that the state would take over the school. District trustees voted to reorganize the school. SJUSD poured $1 million into computers and technology and reopened the school with a new curriculum last September.

Hicks said the changes have made a huge difference for students. “I think they went from an attitude of feeling like they can’t do anything to just ‘Oh wow!’

You can see it in how they walk.” Hicks’ students produce news shows and multi-media assignments. Many don’t have computers at home, but have learned at school how to edit on-line. Eighth grader Kevin Vilaysane grinned and said, “I like this. Last year it was boring. And now I think it’s more exciting because there’s more technology at this school.” Worthington Direct, www.worthingtondirect.com, has a trained staff waiting to anwser all of the questions involved in creating a great setting for you school’s new technology department.

The school has 40 teachers. Only 14 interviewed and were able to return. Principal Jamey Schrey said of the teachers who underwent extra training, “Students have highly qualified teachers now. The teachers are having a great deal of professional development to make sure that technology is used for the day-to-day business.” Teachers can really take charge with the new Boss multimedia cart offered by Worthington Direct. www.worthingtondirect.com

Schrey explained computers have given students a way to express themselves through class work. “They’re able to write about their families, scan pictures of the grandmother and put music to the project and post it on the Web for the whole world to see.”

In addition to doing their own assignments, students also help teachers enhance the curriculum by putting lessons on podcasts that are given to the entire class. continue reading

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