P.D. program readies teachers for digital platform

Public School 69 – The New Vision School, an 87-year-old school in the Bronx surrounded by single-family homes and low-rise apartment buildings, has plenty of experience with technology. But this month the school took a big step towards New York’s educational cutting edge as the first public school in the state to introduce its teachers to a new concept emerging in K-12 education: the digital teaching platform.

This June, 12 teachers from P.S. 69 participated in a comprehensive professional development program to introduce the Time To Know digital teaching platform to their fourth and fifth grades classes this fall.

Time To Know is an interactive curriculum system designed for one-to-one computing classrooms. Designed around guided constructivist principles, the curriculum aims to help students build problem-solving skills, higher order thinking and cooperative learning skills.

P.S. 69 is no stranger to change. When Alan D. Cohen arrived as principal in 2003, the school was on the verge of being taken over by the state due to poor student performance in mathematics. Under Cohen’s leadership over the last seven years, the number of students performing at or above the proficient level on the New York State standardized tests has risen 50 percentage points in mathematics and 40 percentage points in English language arts.

“When your school test scores are in the mid-90s, it’s difficult to maintain and improve upon that level of performance. But when I saw Time To Know, I knew this was a tool to bring my school to the next level. A key benefit of the program is that it allow teachers’ individual personalities and teaching styles to shine,” said Cohen. “My teachers are thrilled with the professional development they’ve received.”

Cohen plans to use Time To Know in math and English language arts classes. His goals for the program include increasing differentiation in the classroom, strengthening students’ comprehension, and improving student performance.

"If you look at the demographics and poverty level in our school community, the statistics say our children should be failing,” he said. “My job is to level the playing field to make sure the children here get the same opportunities as the children in a rich suburban area."

In addition to P.S. 69, 20 New York City elementary schools participating in the Innovation Zone (iZone) program will launch Time To Know during the 2010-11 school year. The teachers implementing Time To Know will participate in professional learning with instructional coaches over the summer.