At the District: Marshall County School District - Tech Learning

At the District: Marshall County School District

The Marshall County School District is a K-12 district located in the Northern Panhandle of West Virginia. With an enrollment of 5,629 students, the school system consists of two high schools, two junior high schools, and eleven elementary schools. Its vision statement guides the school system's efforts: "We
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The Marshall County School District is a K-12 district located in the Northern Panhandle of West Virginia. With an enrollment of 5,629 students, the school system consists of two high schools, two junior high schools, and eleven elementary schools. Its vision statement guides the school system's efforts: "We believe that education is a basic means whereby a given society perpetuates, improves, and transmits its cultural heritage." The Marshall County Schools mission is to plan, deliver, evaluate and maintain the educational programs and related services necessary to implement a thorough, efficient, and effective high quality system of public education.

The cornerstone of educational technology throughout the Marshall County School district has its roots in two state initiatives: The Basic Skills/Computer Education (BS/CE) Program and the SUCCESS initiative. We'll examine each.

The West Virginia BS/CE is a multi-million dollar program to provide hardware, software and training for K-6 students to learn basic skills, Program Goals are: Improve Skills in Reading, Writing, Mathematics, and Computer Literacy plus Provide Teacher Training and Build a Model Program

Since 1990, West Virginia's BS/CE Program has placed more than 30,000 computers in K-6 classrooms. It is considered the nation's longest-running state program for the implementation of technology in education. Technology is being integrated into the K-6 curriculum to enhance student learning, support the curricular goals of the school, and improve student achievement. Implementation of Basic Skills is consistent with the Unified School Improvement Plan (USIP). The school implementation plans cover a 3-5 year period showing progression toward both instructional and technology goals as outlined below:

Instructional Goals:

  • A clear, defined focus on the teaching of the basic skills of reading, mathematics, and composition in grades K-6
  • Implementation of instructional software based on needs as identified by the school and the county
  • Implementation of appropriate models that may include school-wide, curricular-area, or grade-level approaches
  • Implementation of technology in ways that support effective teaching strategies and the effective integration of software into the curriculum

Technology Goals:

  • The purchase of hardware for the primary purpose of supporting progress in the county's implementation of instructional software
  • Replacement of legacy versions of instructional content software, instructional management software, workstation and network operating system software, and hardware Ð for total compatibility
  • Progression toward a structured cabling infrastructure that includes 100 Mbs technology switched to the desktop level
  • Connection of all new workstations to the Internet
  • System administration and technical support

The county and school plans should be:

  1. instructionally sound,
  2. gradual and phased,
  3. cost-effective,
  4. capable of being accomplished while the existing environment is supported during the transition period,
  5. equitable in terms of student access.

The implementation is to include effective professional development, both initial and on-going, that addresses all aspects needed for teachers to effectively integrate the technology into classroom instruction.

As researched by the Milken Exchange on Education Technology, the BS/CE program is considered the nation's most comprehensive statewide approach to computers in education. Since implementation, student scores have risen steadily on both the state standardized testing instrument and the National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP).

The SUCCESS (Student Utilization of Computers in Curriculum for the Enhancement of Scholastic Skills) initiative is another multi-million dollar program. Over the past six years, Marshall County Schools has been part of the West Virginia SUCCESS Initiative, which provides quality technology tools for the preparation of students for post-secondary education or workplace experiences. Emphasis is placed on allowing each school district flexibility within an established framework in terms of technology implementation choices and equity of access for students and teachers. There are provisions for site-based decision making at county and school levels while maintaining a consistent statewide focus. The intent of SUCCESS is to complement not only utilization of the Internet and other state programs, but also local technology initiatives. Implementation of SUCCESS centered around two tiers.

Tier One involves integrating into curriculum areas a functional networked system and an integrated or suite software package providing word processing, spreadsheet, database, graphic presentation tools, and telecommunications. At a minimum level, Tier One provided every student in grades seven and above weekly access to a networked computer with appropriate software. The Tier One implementation had the option to include a file server as part of the networked system. When it was determined that every secondary student had been provided a minimal access level to technology, the school district could move to Tier Two of the implementation.

Tier Two implementation included the integration of workplace simulation software and software for student career and college exploration and decision making into the curriculum. Additionally, implementation of office suite software continued in Tier Two to meet maximum access for students. If a file server(s) was not included in Tier One, it was added in Tier Two. In addition to servers and workstations, the implementation offered optional peripherals such as printers, projection devices, CD towers and large-screen monitors.

At both tiers, the associated staff development paralleled the acquisition of hardware and software. Equipping teachers for their role in the utilization of technology was equally important to providing technology for students. The goal of the implementation was to enhance the curriculum through instructional technology resulting in improved student achievement. Schools housing grade seven or above are eligible for a system. Systems can be implemented in labs or in classrooms, but there must be an adequate number of workstations to ensure that all students grades 7 and above can use the system appropriately in regard to time and content integration. Counties were required to implement Tier One in all secondary schools before utilizing state funds to advance to the next priority in any school.

Bridging the BS/CE and SUCCESS initiatives is the federal E-Rate program. The Telecommunications Act of 1996, co-authored by US Senator Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia, established the universal service fund for schools and libraries, commonly called the E-rate. The Marshall County School district leverages E-Rate dollars to bring additional connectivity to its schools. Three areas of services are discountable through E-rate funding: telecommunications services, Internet access, and internal connections (networking). The purpose of the fund is to provide affordable access to the Internet by schools and libraries down to the "classroom" level.

Focusing on transport, access, and infrastructure, Marshall County Schools has built a system wide infrastructure with all equipment configured in distribution frames located throughout the schools and administrative offices. Classrooms and labs are connected to these areas with category 5 twisted-pair Ethernet wiring capable of full-duplex 100 MBPS communication. Internet speed is either 56KB or T-1 in all facilities. All schools have at least one computer lab with some schools having up to five labs. Computers and Internet access are distributed throughout the schools in most classrooms. All schools are equipment with the latest in digital cameras, data projection, scanners and other state-of-the-art peripherals. As part of the BS/CE and SUCCESS Initiatives, all PCs utilize the Microsoft Office Suite as classroom productivity tools. Wireless laptop labs are present in one school (Moundsville Junior High) as part of the building infrastructure. This school also has implemented remote HVAC system control via laptop technology and modem dialup. The wiring infrastructure at John Marshall High School and Moundsville Junior High School also lends itself to school safety. Both buildings are outfitted with 25 and 16 digital video cameras respectively. The cameras are motion sensitive and can archive up to two weeks of digital video and stills.

The district coordinator of instructional technology, building technology contacts, district superintendent, two assistant superintendents, vocational director, district business manager, and school media specialists make up the district's Technology Team. The integration of technology into the curriculum and administrative use of technology is the primary focus of our technology program. Marshall County Schools is committed to the integration of technological applications and academic growth. In the secondary environment, computer skills are taught through the core content areas and are teacher directed. In the elementary schools, students utilize scheduled weekly computer access where basic skills are taught through activities related to elementary curriculum areas. We address various learning styles in this model. Secondary and elementary teachers also take advantage of open lab time, scheduling their classes on an as-needed basis for additional technology-infused projects. Our very special school technology contacts are the backbone of technology integration and use at the school level. These individuals, although not compensated, work tirelessly to see that technology is properly installed, maintained and utilized in the curriculum setting. They have taken on a personal commitment to lead their colleagues in effective use of educational technology.

At the elementary level, students have access to the CompassLearning basic skills curriculum, K-6 Jump Start software, Microsoft Office, Internet resources, and a wide variety of assorted content related CD's. Some elementary schools utilize either Inspiration or Kidspiration. Sherrard Elementary School has a Palm Pilot lab in addition to the CompassLearning lab. All elementary schools have their own Web page.

Secondary schools employ Microsoft Office as the primary tool for student and teacher productivity. SUCCESS labs are available in each facility and are scheduled on a regular basis. Students use the Internet for research in all content areas. Media centers, through the acquisition of a grant, have implemented state-of-the-art Follett Library automation with electronic card catalogs and online web collection resources. The secondary libraries are available to students 24 hours a day via the Internet. Another resource available to all secondary students is Bridges, a self-directed career and educational planning tool. Bridges focuses on serving students seeking educational or career planning assistance through an easy-to-use online career service. Our largest high school, John Marshall High School, is home to a Cisco Academy which prepares students for the Cisco Certified Network Administrator (CCNA) examination. The academy covers the basics of networking, LANs, WANs with hands-on practice with routers and switches. Students complete a Threaded Case Study Project in which they design a complete multi-site network. All secondary schools have their own Web page.

The Marshall County School district provides extensive staff development offerings to teachers and administrators. The focus is to enhance technology skills throughout the curriculum as well as effectively integrate productivity tools into the classroom. A few of the staff development offerings in the past year have been: sessions in MS Word, MS PowerPoint, MS Excel, Electronic mail, Using Digital Cameras, Inspiration and Kidspiration, Web Page authoring, Bridges, Using data projection as a presentation tool, VR Toolbox, and the Follett electronic library. In-depth staff development is provided to all school system operators who maintain the school servers. Administrators have participated in the Gates Foundation Project LEAD and have each received a laptop computer to utilize in the school setting. As the instructional leader of the building, each principal has made a commitment to use technology as a tool to collaborate with the staff, assess student progress, and interact with other administrators in the interest of education. Several teams of teachers at both the elementary and secondary levels have participated in the Phase 9 initiative which provided instruction on creating online lesson units. The district office has begun construction on a state-of-the-art technology staff development lab which will be available to all employees for the purpose of enhancing their skills in the use of technology.

The West Virginia Department of Education and Office of Technology and Information Systems has recently designed and implemented an online Technology Planning Tool that gives each school an avenue to post their school technology plan online at OnTarget, a site which offers modules for inventorying technology and also for planning and resource allocation. Focusing on assessment, planning and reporting, this new format streamlines access to data collection and how the integration of technology is occurring in our school system.

A goal of our District Unified Plan is to equip and prepare our students with the necessary skills and technology tools for life-long learning and to provide ongoing training to our teachers in the use of hardware, software and other relevant educational applications. Technology is alive and well in Marshall County, West Virginia and like many school districts around the nation evolving at a rapid rate. We consider our teachers visionaries who stand ready to reach this goal and accept the challenges of technology and how it is changing the face of education.

Email: Bill Burrall

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