Alhambra Gets the Gold
Jun 01, 2015 09:42PM, Published by Jennifer Neys, Categories: Education
On May 5, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson announced that 193 middle schools and 180 high schools have been honored under the state's new Gold Ribbon Schools Awards Program, which is temporarily taking the place of the California Distinguished Schools Program. The schools honored in our community are: Alhambra High, Martinez Junior High, Foothill Middle, M. H. Stanley Middle, Las Lomas High and Concord High.
Schools applied for the award in January, based on a model program their school adopted that includes standards-based activities, projects, strategies, and practices that can be replicated by other local educational agencies. The new award is recognizing middle and high schools this year and elementary schools in 2016.
Alhambra High School Principal Tom Doppe spoke with the Focus about their model program and the distinguished award.
CF: What model program earned Alhambra the title of California Gold Ribbon School?
TD: The program had to show how we are getting ready for Common Core State Standards and making that transition. What we chose was more school wide and involved our 1:1 computing, where every student is provided with one Internet enabled Chromebook. They are to maintain the device and bring it to school every day.
CF: How do 1,200 high school students use a Chromebook for 1:1 computing?
TD: We use them for blended learning, from traditional classroom instruction to online learning. We are trying to use technology to support and enhance instruction in the classroom. All of our students have Google accounts that give them the Google education suite, including Google Docs. We have a learning management system called Haiku that allows for Dropbox functionality, where students can work collaboratively; it allows students to extend their learning outside of the classroom. When our district brought forward the vision for 1:1 learning and computing in the classroom, there were four focus areas: collaboration; students were going to have real world experiences; different forms of online assessment; and digital citizenship that will prepare them for the workplace.
CF: What are the expectations for the teachers and students?
TD: We’ve never set an expectation for the amount of minutes, the amount of assignments, and the amount of time that students were on the Chromebooks, whether in school or at home. I’ve never administratively set that. We want teachers to have them as a known factor in the backpack so that as they create assignments knowing that it’s a given as much as pencil and paper. When they found opportunities to enrich the learning experience, enhance and support it through technology, they are able to do that. Some of our teachers use it more than others, and that’s okay.
CF: How is this program funded?
TD: A portion of the Measure K bond money was used to furnish computers and other electronic equipment. Currently at the middle school, in all of the core classrooms, there are enough computers for every student to use in the classroom. In the 2015-2016 school year, every elementary school in the district will have a form of 1:1 computing in the fourth and fifth grade. The classroom will become a more dynamic place because of the technology. This award recognizes years of planning and hard work that the district has put forward to create a budget for the devices; they have a vision for how it would be distributed and implemented.
CF: How have the parents and community responded to the Chromebooks?
TD: I would like to recognize the support of the community. This is something progressive and we have had some parents who were skeptical, but in large part we really have seen a lot of support from the community and I’d like to show our gratitude for that.
The Focus wanted to get the perspective of an Alhambra student who used the Chromebook for the first time this year. Sophomore Katie Christman said, “I used the Chromebook mainly in English and history and I did use it everyday. I think the main problem for kids having the computers is they can get distracted with games and shopping, and it does make my eyes tired, but it’s definitely a great tool for us. There have been technology issues with the Internet and sometimes teachers have to throw out assignments because of it. But I like that all students have access to a computer and we can find the information we need. Overall, I think we should feel blessed to have it and get it for free because not all schools do this.”