Santa Barbara Unified School District teachers will be integrating more technology in the classroom and the Common Core Standards this year, Superintendent Dave Cash said at a back-to-school press conference Tuesday.
“For us, it’s a simultaneous act of raising the ceiling and raising the floor,” he said.
Teachers need to deliver lessons in multiple ways since students learn at different rates, Cash said, so they will work together to modify instruction based on student feedback and performance. Special-education directors are working with general education teachers to better include those students in the classroom, too.
Between the proposed parcel tax Measures A and B on the Nov. 6 ballot and new programs and standards being implemented in the schools, Cash said the district is depending on its strong partners — students, parents and the community.
Student feedback will help mold Santa Barbara Junior High School’s restorative discipline model and the new technology curriculum.
About 200 classrooms now have technology packages installed — flat-screen televisions linked to a teacher’s iPad instead of projectors and screens — and the district promoted Dos Pueblos High School teacher and technology strategist Todd Ryckman to be director of technology starting in the fall.
“Technology is not a toolbox of tools, but the environment in which our students in the 21st century learn,” Cash said, adding that eventually, he wants a tablet or other mobile computing device in the hand of every child to use at school and take home. He said it’s the great equalizer, since it’s dependent only on a student’s curiosity and inquisitive nature.
Ryckman, whose AVID students had their own iPads to use at home and in class, says technology needs to be owned by students for it to be most effective.
Cash said there’s a big gap between the haves and have-nots in the community, but the district will partner with the community to help students get their hands on them.
Already, Computers for Families helps put laptops in the hands of low-income families and students, and community donors have helped buy 150 iPads for the district in the past year.
Implementing the state’s new Common Core Standards will be a game-changer for closing the achievement gap and catering to every type of learner, according to Cash. He said the current standards focus on memorizing a set of facts and skills for each grade level, while the new guidelines focus on critical thinking and real-world application after K-12 education.
Cash offered a world history question as an example: Right now, students would be asked the cause of World War I, with four answers to choose from and bubble in. In the Common Core, students not only will be asked to choose one of those answers, but to justify their answer and why they didn’t pick the other three.
New Assistant Superintendents Emilio Handall and Ben Drati said the rigor of learning standards has increased so much that classroom instruction will be going through big changes. It’s much more powerful to have teachers working in teams
“I think we’re up for the challenge,” Handall said.
“That’s what’s exciting about this,” Cash said. “Mostly everyone became a teacher to engage in the kind of instruction this provides.”
According to administrators, changing the climate at schools will help with the achievement gap as well. Cash said that if students feel confident, safe and have good relationships with their teachers, anything can happen in the classroom.
From a financial perspective, the 2012-13 year is relatively stable. The Board of Education approved deep cuts and a seven-day staff furlough that results in a 175-day school years for students, albeit reluctantly.
Five fewer instructional days will no doubt have an impact — students will learn less, Cash said. If Gov. Jerry Brown’s tax initiative fails in November, more cuts will be made to the K-12 budget, though the district’s adopted budget already plans for those cuts.
Enrollment — and therefore per-student funding — is up, thanks in part by the new grade added this year. Transitional kindergarten is fully funded and gives children the opportunity to go through kindergarten twice, said Meg Jette, assistant superintendent of business services.
Incoming Washington Elementary School Principal Anne Hubbard noted that it will also help provide pre-kindergarten education for children who would usually not get it.