Teachers, Give Laptop Program High Marks
Gongwer News Service, March 4, 2004
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officials prepared to sift through applications for the 2004
Freedom to Learn grants, House Speaker Rick Johnson,
Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Watkins and Michigan
Virtual University President David Spencer announced that those
involved with the pilot of the program would push for its
A survey of the participants in the pilot giving laptop
computers to sixth graders showed the program is improving
performance for the students and involving parents more in the
Of the respondents to the survey at the 15 districts and
intermediate districts involved in the study, representing about
8,000 students, 90 percent said the program should be continued
and expand in their district.
Some 66 percent of teachers said the program is encouraging
students to spend more time on homework and 82 percent said it
is helping students become more independent learners.
The program has also improved teacher technological competency,
doubling to 60 percent the number of teachers who say they spend
at least 10 hours a day on the computer and with 74 percent
saying the proficiency has improved, 84 percent saying that was
through the professional development required under the program.
But teachers also raised concerns that there is not sufficient
training under the program. Some 95 percent said they were busy
or overwhelmed and did not have time to experiment with the new
systems. And only 36 percent of teachers said they were involved
in decisions on software purchases.
In addition to teacher time, the program has also raised
workloads for technology support staff within the districts
accepting the laptops. The survey showed a new look at
technology staffing was particularly in light of the fact that a
plurality of teachers (43 percent) and technical coordinators
(49 percent) believed technology staff took the lead in adopting
The study also found that more than half of principals and
technical coordinators said their schools did not have
Mr. Johnson, the prime mover behind the pilot program last
fiscal year, said the findings of the survey were encouraging as
the state prepares to hand out more federal funds to expand the
program around the state. "I believe in this program and I
believe those were the kind of results that were going to come
out," he said.
"We were actually quite surprised (at the response) given the
short roll-out," said Mark Urban-Lurain, who oversaw the study
for the Michigan State University Center for Teaching and
The current year budget has $17 million in federal funds that
are hoped to provide computers to 40,000 low-income sixth grade
Grant applications are due Friday for the funds, which provide
$250 per student for districts ready to implement the technology
or $50 per student as planning grants for those districts not
ready for the computers themselves.
"We've taken this from a pilot project to a project that really
could skyrocket," Mr. Watkins said. "I see the excitement in the
teachers' and kids' eyes. It's making a difference."
Because the program is limited to federal Title II funds, only
81 districts in the state will qualify for the next rounds of
grants, and some districts involved in the pilot will be
excluded from second year funding. But Mr. Johnson expected
those districts excluded would find the money within their own
budgets to at least continue the program.
Mr. Spencer noted that the program is being run partly through a
contract with Hewlett-Packard, which provides the laptops for
$250 a year, and that any district in the state can join the
contract with its own funds even if it does not qualify for the
And he said the state is accepting applications from more than
just the 81 districts (some 200 have already applied) in case
there is money left over, there is more money added to the
program, or the criteria for districts changes.
While the current federal program is for four years, Mr. Johnson
said he hopes to be able to design the program to extend
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Michigan Bills Would Move Sex Ed To "Just Say No" Posture
MIRS, March 4, 2004
Sex education would look more like today's anti-drug education
campaigns under bills reported today by the Republican majority
of the Senate Education Committee.
The two bills, SB 943 and 944 are sponsored by Committee Chair
Sen. Wayne KUIPERS (R-Holland) and among other things would
require that public school instruction on HIV, AIDS, and sex
education emphasize abstinence, respect for marriage, personal
responsibility, adoption and other content.
The package would also prescribe the membership, terms and
responsibilities of each school district's "health education
advisory board." Those boards guide individual districts' sex
To ensure the mandates in the package are followed, school
districts that fail to meet the new requirements could lose 5
percent of their state aid.
Worrying most sex education teachers, the bills also provide a
new complaint process where parents who feel the district is
violating state law could file a complaint that would
automatically launch an investigation into the district's sex
Opponents of the two measures, just as last week, argued that
the bills are redundant of existing law. Concern was also
expressed over the new sex education advisory committee
requirements that require parents who don't work for the
district to comprise a majority of the advisory committee and
that such a parent chair the committee could result in
deadlocked panels and ineffective sex education programs.
Before the two bills were reported, Sen. Nancy CASSIS (R-Novi)
complained about the fear of including parents expressed by some
"As a former educator, I'm very disturbed by claims that a
competent parent can't serve as chair of the advisory
committee," Cassis said. "Because more and more what we're doing
is getting parents out of education."
During two hours of testimony today, the Committee heard from
students who testified in favor of the bills arguing that in
year-after-year of sex education courses the word "abstinence"
was never mentioned. In contrary testimony, teachers and
administrators testified that all programs put an emphasis on
abstinence and that all parents and teachers would rather that
Kuipers said he is presently awaiting recommendations from the
staff of Gov. Jennifer GRANHOLM on changes they'd like to see
made to the bills. Kuipers also told Sen. Burton LELAND
(D-Detroit) that the bills wouldn't move on the floor next week
to allow time for Democrats to develop amendments.
Kuipers introduced the bills shortly after President George W.
BUSH called for some $300 million to support abstinence
training. The Holland Republican told reporters today that he
believes the two bills will help the state secure more of that
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