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Peter’s Take: Instruction at APS — A Teacher or Technology?

by Peter Rousselot March 8, 2018 at 2:45 pm 0

Peter’s Take is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

With the release of the APS Superintendent’s FY 2019 proposed $636.7M budget, it’s prudent to examine more closely APS’ model for delivering instruction since educating students should be APS’ primary function.

Has the educational mantra, “From Sage on the Stage to Guide on the Side”, gone too far in our APS classrooms today?

Today’s APS classrooms

Currently, every student in grades 2-12 possesses their own APS-issued iPad or MacBook Air purchased with our tax dollars. With these devices in every hand, has the internet become the new de facto teacher and content expert? Are our teachers’ roles being transformed into:

  • Facilitators of accessing online content?
  • Administrators of online assessments?
  • Managers of student work production?

In this new digital-learning age, will our teachers hold center stage, or defer to a student–issued device? Will our students be guinea pigs in untested teaching initiatives? Who is ultimately accountable for each student’s achievement and well-being? Has continuous internet access for every student become too big a crutch in our classrooms, leaving behind students who want and need a live person as their primary educational resource?

In sum, is APS on a trajectory to use technology to enhance our teachers’ instructional delivery, or to replace it?

Are we getting what we pay for?

77.7% of the Superintendent’s proposed FY 2019 budget (at p. 5) is attributed to salaries and benefits costs.

At $80,082, APS ranks second highest in Average Teacher Salaries according to the 2018 Washington Area Boards of Education (WABE) Guide (at pp. 5-15).

The Superintendent’s latest budget document should be reorganized in the transparent way necessary to enable the community to understand the full costs of technology use at every grade level.

Community concerns

In my own review of the many concerns about these issues expressed on social media by APS parents, I was particularly struck by comments like these:

“My child’s high school science class last year was entirely taught on the computers. It was not a distance learning class–the teacher was sitting in the classroom the whole time as the students watched video lectures. When students asked questions, the teacher referred them back to their computers. It was the most alienating experience and my child struggled to get interested in the subject. I think we have gone too far at APS.”

“I just heard a mom today compare her kid’s APS high school class to online courses with their APS lap top – YIKES.”

Conclusion

Our community needs to discuss these broader unanswered questions, not simply the current needlessly-narrow discussion regarding APS’ so-called “Acceptable Use Policy” relating to student-issued devices. We should be discussing all the broader educational and financial issues regarding how APS is using technology to deliver instruction at every grade level.

Our community needs to examine relevant data, discuss and decide if we want and can afford too many students having a distance/virtual learning experience though their devices, while sitting in our costly APS buildings, and being supervised by the second-highest paid teachers in the region.

As we continue to add 4,646 more students to APS by 2027, the scenario of paying top dollar for salaries, state-of-the art technology, and buildings with space for every student isn’t fiscally sustainable.

Something has to give.

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