In The Schools

Montclair Public School District Launches Equity Plan to Prepare All Students for 21st Century Learning

August 23, 2014 at 9:00 PM

MONTCLAIR, NJ - In an effort to proactively ensure greater fairness and equity across the District, Montclair Public Schools announced today the most ambitious plan in its history to ensure innovation resources reach every classroom in every school.

“Montclair has the most highly effective teachers and principals in the state, yet our schools are fending for themselves when it comes to technology and innovation.  We need to ensure our District does not become a series of  ‘have’ and ‘have not’ schools,” stated Montclair Public Schools District Superintendent Penny MacCormack. “All of our schools deserve to be 21stcentury learning environments, and we must listen and adapt to the needs and requests of our school leaders. Last year, because of a lack of school resources, some teachers brought their own technology devices to teach in our classrooms. In other cases, teachers worked in classrooms that did not even have an effective internet connection.  As a former teacher, I am committed to ensuring each teacher in our district has the tools they need to succeed. Our teachers and students deserve both the best resources and a long-term strategy to address this issue.”

Led by newly hired District Technology Director Barry Haines, an internal audit conducted this spring found an inequitable divide within the District, with some schools having an 11:1 student-to-computer ratio, while other schools had a 3:1 ratio. In addition, the audit found that the current, shared school internet connection barely provided students and teachers with the needed bandwidth to access the key foundations for digital learning. More specifically the audit found that the broadband connection provided the same speed that a single home using a connection such as dial up provided in the mid-1990s.

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To address these findings, the District launched the first stage of its Equity Innovation Plan this summer. The following actions have taken place since May and will be completed near the beginning of the school year: 

  • Remediation of the network, enabling District schools to connect to the internet service provider with upgraded bandwidth from 100 MB to 1 GB – a ten-fold increase. 
  • Replacement of outdated network equipment in all buildings to align with the newly increased bandwidth and maximize its effectiveness.
  • Procurement of mobile computers for all secondary teachers in grades 6 through 12 as part of the District’s current investment in technology.   
  • Installation of state-of-the-art projectors and new whiteboards in 88 core content high school classrooms that replace the pre-1950s chalkboards. This will allow teachers to bring in Web 2.0 resources such as: primary resources in social studies, peer-review capabilities in language arts, manipulatives to understand mathematics concepts, and the ability to project software resources to better understand science concepts.

“Every child in the District should have access to a 21st century classroom and we start by ensuring innovation equity,” stated Board of Education President David Deutsch.  “As a community, we share the responsibly to ensure that all, not some, schools have strong Wi-Fi and needed computers in the classroom. I commend the work of both Superintendent MacCormack and Mr. Haines for showcasing, and then acting, on this issue for the community. Creating this technology equity plan is a long-term investment for our teachers and our community and will ensure that our students can compete in the future.”

“For too long we have talked about a District investment in technology and innovation.  We have held community discussions on the issue. I have personally pleaded that we look to modernize our classrooms, yet there has been no action,” stated Montclair High School Principal James Earle. “Today’s investment and the specific steps we are taking are simply long overdue and will make a real difference when we open our school doors in the fall.”

Phase I of the District’s Equity Innovation Plan was conducted during the 2014 spring and summer months.  Further plans and an outline of Phase II priorities will be announced during the fall of the school year.

 

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