Wednesday, 15 April 2015

"They're Not Making the Case"

This post from Maryland caught my attention this morning. It is a report on a council who are wanting to increase the property tax in their area to fund education improvements. It appears that the majority of the local residents are against the 15% tax increase. One of the County Councilmen commenting that:
“My district was number one in terms of housing foreclosures for Prince George’s County,” Patterson said, referring to the 2008 housing market crash. “Residents are saying, ‘We are just barely getting our heads above water and now you want to hit us with a tax increase?’”
Among those improvements that would be brought by the 15% tax increase would be more competitive teacher pay, pre-kindergarten expansion, and digital literacy. Now, the report doesn't elaborate on what it means by digital literacy, it seems to be a 'catch all' term at the moment, but another Councilwoman does say this:
"(T)he school system has not provided information as to how the money will be spent to improve graduation rates. For example, she cited the proposal’s digital literacy efforts to provide students with iPads and ChromeBooks.
“That’s fine, I don’t have a problem with that. But how does that relate to the high school graduation rate?” Lehman said. “They’re not making the case, in my mind and I think in a lot of people’s minds, as to the connection.”
I can't disagree with her argument. If local residents are being asked to fork out more of their money on tax increases, the minimum a council can do in this instance, is to demonstrate the relationship between these technologies (iPads / Chromebooks) and an improvement in graduation rates. But that's the problem, it is extremely difficult to make that connection, and to "make the case". I seem to remember Becta in about 2009, struggling to prove the use of technology and improvements in learning, "The relationship is not a simple one". The Sutton Trust in 'The Teaching and Learning Toolkit (2012)', also commenting that ICT provides moderate improvements to learning at high costs. Therefore, the Councilwoman is right to be concerned, throwing new technologies at students and teachers and then hoping that their graduation rates improve is extremely risky, or perhaps foolhardy. I would certainly hope that within the proposals, there is at the very least, some money set aside for teacher training on how to use these resources effectively within their own teaching practice.
"The evidence suggests that schools rarely take into account or budget for the additional training and support costs which are likely to make the difference on how well the technology is used."
The Teaching and Learning Toolkit, 2012