COVER SHEET *
Project Summary *
Project Status *
Train the Trainer *
Contextual Factors *
Moving Forward *
Program Modifications *
Goals and Objectives *
Project Evaluation *
Observational Evaluation of ACT 101, 102, and 103 *
Development of a Partners Database *
Measure of Parents Perspectives on Technology *
Change in Teachers Attitudes, Perspectives, & Use of Technology: Region 1 *
Teachers Attitudes, Perspectives, & Use of Technology: Region 2 Baseline *
Administrators' Attitudes, Perspectives, & Use of Technology *
Students Attitudes, Perspectives, & Use of Technology: Region 1 Baseline *
Supplemental Case Studies *
Supplemental Information / Changes *
Information Dissemination *
Letters of Support *
Sweetwater Union High School District
1130 Fifth Avenue
Chula Vista, CA 91911
Technology Innovation Challenge Grant
Name: James Frazee
Title: Coordinator of Educational Technology
Telephone Number: (619) 585-7813
Fax Number: (619) 476-3445
E-mail Address: firstname.lastname@example.org
Name: Dr. Edward Brand Title: Superintendent,
Sweetwater Union High School District
Signature: ___________________________ Date: May 26, 1999
Section II: Project Summary
The Advanced Curriculum through Technology (ACT Now!) program is a three-year old partnership between the Sweetwater Union High School District, other local educational agencies, institutions of higher education, public libraries, hardware manufacturers, software designers, telecommunications firms and local community organizations.
Sweetwater Union High School District is the largest secondary district in the state of California, encompassing a 154 square mile area and serving 31,000 students in grades 7 through 12. Approximately 80% of the student population belongs to ethnic minority groups with the largest ethnic group being Hispanic (62%). As a result of changing demographics and the 21% increase in students since 1985, more than 56% of all students speak a language other than English in their homes.
With the aid of a federal Technology Innovation Challenge Grant, ACT Now! has initiated a campaign for systemic educational reform through the effective use of technological resources. The program focuses on providing teachers with the tools, skills, and support that allow them to create online lessons that engage students in authentic tasks and higher-level thinking skills.
This was a "bubble" year for the ACT Now! project with teacher participation increasing by more than 100%. A total of 585 certificated personnel and administrators participated in the program this year, serving approximately 20,000 students. Teachers from two private schools, three feeder-district elementary schools and the district office also participated in the program.
Participants were provided an extensive array of computer-related professional development opportunities. ACT classes were offered during the school day, after school, on weekends and during the summer at three main training sites and several other locations. College credit or professional growth hours were offered to participants.
The program focuses on integrating technology into the existing standards-based curriculum to increase teacher effectiveness through concentration on higher-level thinking skills.
Section III Project Status
Year three was a year of tremendous growth. The number of teachers participating in the ACT Now! professional development program more than doubled from a little over 250 in year two to more than 585 in year three. Staff development opportunities and training facilities were both augmented to accommodate the increase.
Two new training labs were established, one at Montgomery Middle School (MOM) and one at Hilltop Middle School (HTM). Combined with the existing facility at National City Adult School (NCA), these labs provided convenient access to participants in the northern, central, and southern regions of the district. With assistance from business partner Tangent Computer, the HTM lab became the most frequently used site in the district for professional development on the Microsoft Windows platform. Both NCA and HTM functioned as community access labs through Sweetwaters adult school program.
One of the reasons for the growth in participation was the California Digital High School Initiative (DHS) AB 64. Five Sweetwater District high schools received these grants of $300 per average daily attendance (ADA) in year one, and $45 per ADA in years two and three, averaging more $600,000 each in the first year. The DHS grant has stringent provisions that require buildout of network capacity, curricular focus, and professional development. ACT Now! assisted the DHSs in the preparation of grant proposals through project planning events, vendor showcases, and acting as liaison between the schools and network wiring contractors. The ACT Now! program also provided a proven "off-the-shelf" solution for professional development that easily exceeded the grant requirements and greatly simplified the organizational task faced by the DHS's. Four of the five schools requested ACT Now! training, and provided ACT Now! with its first taste of cost recovery, paying $500 per participant for the training alone.
Year three saw the continued enhancement of Sweetwaters microwave network and the completion of local fiber and Category 5 network infrastructure in Region Two schools. ACT Now! participants now enjoy high-speed (10-20 Mbps) network service bringing state of the art multimedia capability directly to the teachers desktop. Through valued partnerships with Cisco Systems, Virtual Networks and Telcom Communications these services have now been installed in a majority of classrooms, and the district has initiated the testing phase of new, browser-based student data systems that allow teachers the long-awaited capacity to access student information, report attendance, and communicate with colleagues directly from the desktop.
Since ACT Now! focuses on professional development for teachers and systemic educational reform, the number of students affected by the program can only be estimated. More than eighty-five percent of the certificated staff at each site in Region Two took part in the program. With this level of saturation, it is safe to assume that all students at each site ACT Now! are contacted in some way every day by a teacher who has participated in ACT Now! training. There are nearly 20,000 students in Region Two schools.
All teachers who participate agree to attend forty hours of professional development training in return for the use of a high-end multimedia computer in their classroom. These hours include twenty-four of Advanced Curriculum through Technology (ACT) core classes. Three eight-hour Saturday classes focus on the WebQuest model developed at San Diego State University by Dr. Bernie Dodge, Professor of Educational Technology. The WebQuest model was chosen for its focus on collaborative, authentic tasks that engage students in higher-level thinking skills. ACT Now! training encourages teachers to create their own WebQuests in alignment with district, state, and national standards, and to publish them on the World Wide Web in the ACT Now! Online Curriculum Library (http://www.suhsd.k12.ca.us/actnow/curriculum.html).
ACT Now! provided over 1,400 classroom hours of instruction in technology this year. More than 600 of these hours constituted the ACT training (24 hours for each of 585 participants, plus make-up classes). The balance comprised a variety of "elective" classes designed to increase skills in specific applications and generate projects that would serve in the classroom. While the ACT classes were open only to ACT Now! participants, the electives were available to all district employees. In addition, 430 hours from the ACT catalog were available to the entire community (see Adult School in the Innovations section of this report). Topics ranged from Microsoft Word to GradeQuick to HyperStudio. These classes focused mainly on the applications that were provided to participants as part of the ACT Now! software bundle, but this year we added some new classes including Adobe Photoshop and Pagemaker, and Claris Filemaker Pro to meet the needs of the many participants who were already familiar with some of the other applications. Three course catalogs are published each year providing district employees with a large assortment of dates, locations and topics to choose from. The course catalog is also available on line at http://actnow.www.suhsd.k12.ca.us:591/search.html.
Train the Trainer
To meet the anticipated increase in program participation, new trainers were added to the Teacher Training Quality Assurance Team (TTQAT). Existing teachers identified proactive colleagues, and school administrators contributed names as well. Eight new team members were selected bringing the total number of trainers to 33. In June 98, they began training to deliver the staff development classes that would begin in the fall. ACT Now! received tremendous support from partners in the delivery of the Train the-Trainer instruction. Representatives from Jackson Software and Inspiration provided hands-on, half-day seminars in GradeQuick, an electronic gradebook program and Inspiration, a concept mapping tool. Proxima corporation lead team members through its online Presenters University (http://www.proxima.com/presenters)as well, offering tips to enhance presentation skills. The June training also included a half-day seminar in HyperStudio presented by an ACT Now! trainer using instructional materials provided by Roger Wagner Publishing.
Near the end of August, TTQAT members returned for an update on the new ACT Now! core curriculum as well as information on policies and procedures. A representative of National City Adult School, where about one half of our training would be held, led a short session on adult school procedures and attendance record keeping.
In October, TTQAT trainers were fortunate to be able to attend a two-day seminar on creating and using online lesson units presented by Tom March (http://www.ozline.com). His hierarchy of lesson templates was a subject of much discussion among the trainers, and eventually led to the incorporation of more accessible projects into the ACT Now! training (See ACT Online in the Innovations section of this report).
There were two factors that made the 98-99 year completely different from the first implementation year. First, program participation increased dramatically over the 250 in the first year. By September 98, approximately 400 teachers had registered with the program. By the end of October, more than 200 additional teachers signed on. These six hundred participants tested the capacity of our facilities and increased the workload on the TTQAT instructors dramatically. For example, in order to provide the necessary ACT core classes for all participants, we were required to schedule all-day classes in three different computer labs on nearly every non-holiday Saturday of the school year. We even added a series of Sunday classes to meet the needs of those participants whose religious beliefs precluded attendance at Saturday classes. On most weekdays (Monday through Thursday), one to three elective classes were offered as well for a total of over 1,400 classroom hours of instruction.
The second factor that had an enormous affect on the program was the inclusion of four schools that had received California Digital High School grants. The purpose of the Digital High School grant is to ensure that all students have access to computers and the Internet in all classrooms. The grant also contains a professional development requirement which these four schools chose to meet by putting their staffs through the ACT Now! program. ACT Now! was pleased to include these teachers in the program, but it did lead to some difficulties. The basic premise of ACT Now! is that a teacher receives the use of a computer in return for attending professional development training. The Digital High School grant, however, stipulates that all teachers will get Internet access in their classrooms, thus removing the incentive for attendance at training. In the Digital High Schools, attendance at professional development classes correlated directly with site-level support from administrators and lead teachers.
Many new ideas were incorporated into the program this year that improved performance and increased the programs profile both within the district and nationally.
WebQuest Symposium. On May 4, 1999, partner Proxima Corporation hosted the first ACT Now! WebQuest Symposium. Attended by nearly 100 teachers, administrators, students and business partners, the Symposium showcased WebQuests created by Region One teachers and was based on the model used by the San Diego Unified Triton Project, our sister Challenge Grant. The program, including student presentations, was so successful that we have decided to repeat it twice in year four. Presenters were unanimous in their "appreciation for being appreciated." Many school administrators and business partners, surprised by the depth and quality of the WebQuests, expressed an interest in supporting ACT Now! in a more visible way.
Information Dissemination. Efforts to communicate took several new forms this year. At the national and state level, we continued to present at conventions including National Educational Computing Conference in San Diego, California League of Middle Schools in Monterey and San Diego, Computer Using Educators in Palm Springs and Microcomputers in Education at Arizona State University. Evaluation team members also presented at the American Educational Research Association and the Phoenix SITE convention.
Within the district, program staff began publication of an information technology newsletter to provide updates on the state of technology implementation and to highlight promising practices and notable achievements.
To enhance communication with Region Two schools regarding training opportunities and ongoing program news, program staff created a database of participant schools containing the name of the person at each site responsible for generating the daily bulletin. Each week, the contact person received a fax with suggested text for bulletin notices regarding upcoming classes and other program information.
Classified Staff Training. TTQAT instructors provided training on Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint to 238 classified employees on two district-wide classified staff development days. The TTQAT has become recognized throughout the district as a resource for quality technology staff development. The districts Finance Department has initiated an aggressive weekly training schedule for all employees with the help of ACT Now! trainers using ACT Now! facilities.
Cox Multimedia Academy. This year, the Sweetwater District will host the Cox Multimedia Academy. This prestigious summer event provides an opportunity for teachers to explore various multimedia authoring systems and to create projects that they can use in their classrooms. TTQAT trainers will staff the training sessions along with ACT Now! student assistants. Cox has generously donated Connectix Virtual PC software and 64 MB RAM upgrades to the computer lab at Rancho Del Rey Middle School (an ACT Now! school) where the event will be held.
In response to survey and post-training evaluations, several structural changes were made to make the training more flexible and meaningful to the participants.
Flexible Scheduling. In the first year of implementation, all participants took the same classes, and were assigned to specific dates. Training included twenty-four hours of Advanced Curriculum through Technology, and an additional sixteen hours of application-specific training for a total of forty hours. Several participants from Region One had indicated that they were forced to take elective classes on subjects that they already knew very well in order to meet program requirements. In addition, some found the mandated scheduling to be inconvenient. In response to these needs, we offered a menu of elective classes on a variety of topics and at multiple skill levels. Participants were allowed to choose their own schedule of elective classes on dates and at times that were convenient for them. The three eight-hour Saturday classes were still assigned to each individual by the program manager in an effort to allow a cohort group to experience the classes together to encourage collegial discussion and collaboration on projects.
Platform Choice. ACT Now! participants are allowed to choose to receive either a Mac or Windows computer when they enter the program. In Region One, however, all training was done on Mac computers and some participants expressed frustration at being unable to take classes on computers running their operating system of choice. Based on these evaluation responses, we set up a new training lab this year with Microsoft Windows based computers. By late October, our two Mac labs and one Windows lab mirrored the district-wide platform choice of two-thirds Mac, one-third Windows.
Incentives. Based on the fact that a good WebQuest (the goal of our program) would take many hours outside of the 40 required training hours to complete, we offered a new incentive this year: a $500 computer upgrade for teachers who completed a WebQuest that met standards as set forth in the WebQuest Rubric (http://www.suhsd.k12.ca.us/actnow/wqrubric.htm).
We increased the benefits for teachers who completed the program. We were able to offer three units college credit through the University of San Diego to anyone who completed the forty hours of training and published a WebQuest. This incentive met with unanimous approval from all participants.
Finally, all classes offered through the program qualified for district professional growth credits that advance teachers on the pay scale.
Pre-training skills assessment. In Region One, participants were asked to self-assess their own computer skills and we learned that this doesnt result in accurate information. We purchased a software computer skills assessment tool and were able to test more than two-thirds of the participant population during prep periods at the beginning of the year. The test, taken on a computer, requires the test taker to respond to various simulated situations. During the testing period, the program experienced a sudden and unexpected influx of new participants which made it impossible for us to use test results to group individuals into different classes. For this year, the testing served two purposes: 1) Those who were unable to pass the basic operating system test were required to take a Basic Computer Skills class, and 2) the test provided baseline data indicating pre-intervention skill levels. As this report is being written, this years participants are post-testing using the same system. By comparing the pre- and post-tests, we will be able to quantify growth in one area of computer use.
Curricular Focus. The challenge for ACT Now! is to use technology to foster systemic changes that increase student outcomes. The strategy for realizing our goal is to provide teachers with skills and support systems that allow them to create authentic tasks for students that engage them in higher-level thinking skills. Computers and the World Wide Web are fertile territory for achieving our goals.
Based on results of the first year of training, we discovered a need to spend more time helping teachers to identify and create "authentic" tasks, and to discern when an activity actually incorporated higher-level thinking skills (defined "transformation"). Much of the content of the ACT Now! training remained very similar to what it was in the previous year. The core classes continued to focus on the creation of a WebQuest a very specific model for an online lesson that engages students in higher-level thinking skills as they complete collaborative, authentic tasks. The ACT classes also covered ethical and safe use of the Internet, web page building and publishing skills, and Internet search techniques. But the curriculum was streamlined to allow more time to be spent on transformation. The streamlining also enabled us to get participants started on creating their own projects earlier in the 24-hour class series and allowed us to identify and work with participants who were headed in the wrong direction earlier in the process.
The other program-wide change that we made involved making a concerted attempt to embed basic computer skills (virtual workspace and file management skills) into all of the classes. Computer users who can save to a disk and move easily among multiple windows and applications are much more productive than those who cant.
In-depth training. For most teachers, especially beginning computer users, a two-hour class on a particular application isnt enough to make them feel comfortable about using it in the classroom. They need to spend a little time, dig a little deeper, and learn to trust the technology before they will expose students to it. With this in mind, ACT Now! created a series of "in-depth" classes to meet teachers needs. Offered for elective credit, these classes run one night per week for six consecutive weeks. Topics include Microsoft Word and PowerPoint, Adobe Photoshop, Web Site Design and others. The Maximizing Technology in the Classroom class includes a survey of the three most popular teaching tools in the ACT Now! software bundle: PowerPoint, Inspiration and GradeQuick. It also gives teachers experience in basic troubleshooting and classroom technology integration strategies. The in-depth classes are project-based, and capitalize on the pride and satisfaction participants get from being able to walk away with products they can use in their classrooms. These classes are offered through a partnership with National City Adult School described in more detail in the innovation section of this report.
Online evaluation system. At most ACT Now! classes, participants complete an online evaluation form. This browser-based system, comprising ten Likert scale and three open-ended questions uploads responses instantly to the ACT Now! server. The results are summarized and become available to instructors immediately after the class is over providing feedback and tips on how to improve the instruction. This tool has proven more valuable than weeks of train-the-trainer sessions because of its immediacy. Instructors often linger after a class to check their evaluation results. On Saturdays, when the same class may be running at three different sites, the evaluations have even become a source of friendly competition among the instructors. Who got the best comments and scores? The evaluation form can be viewed at http://actnow.www.suhsd.k12.ca.us:591/Eval/Evaluation. Evaluation results are password protected.
Student Assistants. The addition of students as assistant instructors has had a number of positive effects. We expected to provide valuable work experience to the students themselves and to reduce trainer costs for the program. What we hadnt expected was the overwhelmingly positive response from class participants. Instructors have seen evidence that some teachers who may feel reluctant to ask a question of an adult trainer feel more at ease asking a student. They may feel guilty about taking the instructors time away from the class or possibly even intimidated. The student assistants provide a resource that adults cant possibly provide in this case.
Prospective students were interviewed, screened for technology skills, and then given a two-hour class on how to assist in ACT Now! classes. See the Attachments for student assistant guidelines.
ACT Online. Created by , the ACT Online system allows technophobes and computer neophytes to harness the power of the Internet in their classrooms with ease. To create an online lesson, teachers simply fill in a form that directs them toward higher-level thinking skills and correlation with content standards. ACT Online helps teachers use their experience as teachers and curriculum creators, and vastly reduces the amount of technical skill involved in posting an online lesson. In fact, the ACT Online system builds the web page for you! Teachers dont have to concern themselves with constructing links or using File Transfer Protocol to upload to a remote server. All of that is transparent to the teacher, who simply concentrates on finding useful online resources and creating a worthwhile activity that uses them. Visit http://actnow.www.suhsd.k12.ca.us:591/actonline/library.htm to review over 200 online lessons created by ACT Now! participants this year.
Distribution Days. By holding a schoolwide event for the distribution and setup of computers, we ensured that the new hardware would become useful immediately. In Region I, some computers stayed in their boxes for too long after they were delivered because support was not available and recipients were unsure of their own ability to properly configure their systems.
Based on the model successfully piloted at Sweetwater High School, a Region One school, ACT Now! staff organized and trained a group of onsite "Critical Friends" (technologically savvy teachers who could assist with computer setup) in advance of the event. At each sites Distribution Day, together with partners Tangent Computer and Apple Computer, ACT Now! trainers presented demonstrations on how to set up a computer. Each individual in ACT Now! the program signed out a computer and set it up in his or her classroom with assistance available from Critical Friends if needed. The Distribution Day event ensured that the computer was set up and working, and also provided the first step toward technological confidence for those teacher who had never worked with computer hardware before. It was also helpful to have vendor representatives available to answer questions and document missing parts or non-functioning hardware.
Train the Trainer. Our policy has always been to include two instructors at every class: one lead instructor and an assistant who can "float" around the room helping individuals have difficulty keeping up. This allows the lead instructor to keep the flow of the class moving while providing individualized attention as needed. Starting in January, 1999, the Technology Training Manager began identifying individuals who would be valuable additions to the TTQAT for next year. These individuals were then invited to become paid assistants at various classes particularly the Saturday ACT core classes in a sort of apprenticeship program. This method of training instructors has resulted in a much more experienced group of "new" instructors for the coming year who are more steeped in the type of institutional knowledge that is needed to make these classes most effective. New instructors will still be provided with "nuts and bolts" training when the Sweetwater District hosts the Cox Multimedia Academy in June, 1999.
Tech Preps. A supplemental funding grant allowed us to offer an exciting and unique type of follow-on training for teachers in Region One. Tech Preps provides on-site technology training during the school day. The Tech Prep facilitator currently serves four sites: Granger Junior High, National City Middle School, Montgomery Middle School and Sweetwater High School on one day each week. Training is provided in two-week cycles. During the first week, short one-period workshops are presented repeatedly throughout the day, and teachers are invited to attend during their prep periods. Flyers are posted in advance describing exactly what the workshop will cover, and teachers are invited to attend voluntarily. During the second week of the cycle, the Tech Prep facilitator is available for individualized instruction and troubleshooting by appointment. Because the grant funding was not available until after the start of the first semester of the 98 99 school year we were forced to wait until the beginning of the second semester to pull a full time teacher out of the classroom to begin the program. A certificated teacher experienced with both adults and younger students, Ofelia Gutierrez-Duarte, has been filling the role of Tech Prep Facilitator since the end of January, 1999.
Response to the program has been overwhelmingly positive. Teachers appreciate the personalized help in their own teaching environment. The Tech Prep program provides the follow through that ensures that the technology is actually working in the classroom: connecting the computer to a TV monitor, setting up e-mail preferences, getting the printer working, and myriad other issues that enhance the learning environment but may otherwise "slip through the cracks." Using sign-up sheets, "cold calls" and by interfacing with site technology facilitators, the Tech Prep Facilitator is able to identify teachers who need assistance and focus corrective measures effectively. Program management has found information gathered by the Tech Prep Facilitator about what is working and not working as well as the current climate of participant attitudes to be particularly helpful.
Adult School Classes. The Sweetwater District boasts a thriving adult school program. ACT Now! partnered with the National City Adult School to provide staff development opportunities in a mutually beneficial way by offering our "in-depth" elective classes as part of the adult school catalog. Staffed by TTQAT trainers, these classes were attended not only by ACT Now! participants, but also the general public. Since the adult school receives support from the state based on class attendance, it covered the cost of the TTQAT trainers. This partnership constitutes a major breakthrough for sustainability of the ACT Now! program.
Administrator Training. Throughout the year, there were instances where a higher level of administrator support could have helped to enhance program outcomes. Too often, administrators were unable to participate in the training itself, and had little or no idea of the purpose and extent of the ACT Now! training. To increase administrator support, we offered three classes specifically for administrators. Topics included PowerPoint and Effective, Ethical and Safe School Web Sites. During these classes, administrators also received information on ACT Now! program goals and the WebQuest model. In June, 1999, we will hold our first half-day Principals Institute. Mandated by Superintendent Edward Brand, Ed.D., this training will include a complete overview of the ACT Now! program and include representative exercises from some of the core classes.
Goal 1: Ensure equitable access for all students to challenging, technology-enriched learning. Objective 1.1: Students will have access to appropriate and sufficient technological resources. Objective 1.2: Students will use technology as part of learning across all disciplines.
Goal 2: Enhance learning outcomes by infusing technology throughout a standards-driven curriculum. Objective 2.1: Students will acquire, synthesize and appropriately use information resources, and will demonstrate mastery of a variety of technology including application programs, multimedia tools and authoring programs.
Objective 2.2: Students will complete relevant, real-world tasks linked to a rigorous curriculum.
Objective 2.3: Students will achieve to high standards as evidenced by work included in an electronic portfolio.
Goal 3: Enrich instruction through the development and support of "21st Century Teachers." Objective 3.1: Staff will facilitate students use of technology to enhance learning.
Objective 3.2: Staff will share their technological expertise and experience with colleagues.
Objective 3.3: Staff will use technology as a tool in developing curriculum and managing their classroom.
Goal 4: Extend the districts "community of learners" to include members of the local and global communities. Objective 4.1: Students will link with the outside community via virtual field trips, video conferencing, chat rooms, and E-mail.
Objective 4.2: Community members will interact with students in on-line learning activities.
Objective 4.3: Parents will have increased access to information resources.
Goal 5: Expand school-to-career opportunities that prepare students for high skill/high wage careers in technological fields. Objective 5.1: Students will participate in Tech Prep programs focused on technology.
Objective 5.2: Students will develop technical skills applicable to the workplace.
Objective 5.3: Students will explore career options through on-line resources.
The ACT Now! project is being evaluated by a team of evaluators from San Diego State University. Drs. Patrick Harrison, Marcie Bober, and Eleanor Lynch form the primary team. Dr. Harrison is the Chair of the Department of Educational Technology, and Dr. Bober is an Assistant Professor in that department. Dr. Lynch is the Chair of the Department of Special Education. All are experienced evaluators, researchers, and district partners. Ms. Hanna Richardson and Dr. Susan Levine are collecting the data for the project case studies which are being supported through supplemental funding and providing formative input on the ACT 101, 102, and 103 classes. Both have Masters degrees in Educational Technology and Susan has a doctorate in clinical psychology. Ms. Richardson has been a high school math teacher and is the principal in HR Performance Designs, an instructional design consulting firm that works primarily in business and industry.
ACT Now! is a complex, multi-faceted project with primary emphasis on infrastructure and staff development in technology as one element of a larger commitment to school reform. The project is designed to create equitable access to technology for all students and to provide teachers with the skills, hardware, and software to effectively integrate technology into a standards-based curriculum. ACT Now! is being implemented in the largest secondary school district in California and one in which there are many challenges. Sweetwater Union High School District is contiguous with the Mexican border, and 80% of the students are from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds. Large numbers of students are working to master the core curriculum while learning English as a second language. These students academic success is seriously threatened; and despite significant reductions in the drop-out rate in recent years, the drop-out rate for English Language Learners is more than double the district average.
Economic diversity is also a hallmark of the district. While some communities are developing rapidly with high-end housing, recreational opportunities, and shopping areas, others have high concentrations of families who receive public assistance. Overall, 20% of families in the district receive Aid for Families of Dependent Children (AFDC) with as many as 40% receiving support in some communities.
Sweetwater Union High School District is committed to school reform that ensures student achievement, equity and social justice, and teachers that are prepared to meet the challenges of the 21st century. Based upon these values, the district has invested in technology through infrastructure development, staff development, and curriculum support through ACT Now! and other district resources. This report presents formative and impact evaluation data on the projects accomplishments from May 1998 through April 1999.
Since the last annual report the evaluation team has conducted formative and impact evaluations of multiple components of the ACT Now! project. Formative evaluations have been guided by the need to know what is and is not working optimally in project implementation. Impact evaluations have been guided by one unifying question, "What is the impact of ACT Now! on students, teachers, and administrators?" Each of the studies is briefly described in the bullets that follow, and a more elaborated summary of each of the studies follows.
This summary, as well as the five-year evaluation plan and full reports from this years studies, can be found in the stand-alone evaluation report that accompanies this document. It should be noted that the full evaluation reports are written in a style that is non-academic and user-friendly. During the first year of the project, reports were written in a traditional manner. Although these were used internally by the evaluators and project staff, they had limited utility for wider, district audiences. Therefore, at the request of project staff, reports are now written in a format that is immediately useable with a wide range of constituencies.
On-line Evaluation Project staff developed an on-line evaluation for the classes which enabled class participants to assess their satisfaction with the training session at the end of day and enabled trainers to receive immediate, summary feedback on their effectiveness. Data from these sessions were used by trainers to modify the curriculum, the amount of time spent timing, and instructional approaches.
Observational Evaluation of ACT 101, 102, and 103 Members of the evaluation team supplemented the on-line evaluation with two observations of each class session. One of the first classes in each series was observed, and a second class was observed near the end of the series. Observations were provided to project staff in written reports. These reports were used to "tweak" course content and delivery.
Development of a Partners Database ACT Now! has been very successful in identifying partners within business and industry in the San Diego area. These partnerships, however, have proved difficult to track and to evaluate. One member of the evaluation team developed a Partners Database that project staff can use to log contacts, track the relationship, and ensure that partnerships are being nurtured.
Measure of Parents Perspectives on Technology As a first step in determining the extent to which the project evaluation should focus on parents, an initial survey was conducted at a Parent Summit meeting. The primary value of this evaluation activity was determine that evaluating ACT Now! through parents eyes had limited utility. Because the projects focus at this time on infrastructure and staff development, parents are not in a position to respond to ACT Now!s effectiveness.
Change in Teachers Attitudes, Perspectives, & Use of Technology: Region 1 During this reporting period, teachers in Region 1 were surveyed for the second time to determine change following a year of ACT Now! training. These data provide changes from baseline gathered in the previous year (1996-1997).
Teachers Attitudes, Perspectives, & Use of Technology: Region 2 Baseline In Spring 1998, teachers in Region 2 were surveyed to gather baseline data on their attitudes toward, perspectives on, and use of technology.
Administrators Attitudes, Perspectives, & Use of Technology Based on the assumption that administrators are critical to the change process, district administrators were surveyed to determine their use of, attitudes toward, and perspectives on technology.
Students Attitudes, Perspectives, & Use of Technology: Region 1 Baseline Students in the junior high, middle, and high school in Region 1 were survey to determine their access to and use of technology in school, their access and use at home, and their attitudes toward technology as a tool for learning.
Supplemental Case Studies Three school-based case studies are being supported with supplemental funding from OERI. The case studies are designed to provide additional information on the impact of ACT Now! in three different school contexts. Though ongoing, the findings to date are included in this report.
Evaluation of Student Outcomes
In the past 18 months there has been considerable emphasis on evaluating student outcomes in the Technology Initiative Challenge Grants. Pressures from Congress, federal sponsors, and even local communities have made student outcome data the gold standard for all evaluation activities. As evaluators, we would like to provide such data. Although readers will find evidence that points toward positive student outcomes, increased achievement, and positive changes in teaching and learning throughout this report, we do not have test scores or findings from experimental research that document that students touched by ACT Now! have gained "X" number of points on statewide achievement tests or improved their grades in the core curriculum as a direct result of ACT Now! This is not surprising. ACT Now! is a systemic project designed to build infrastructure and capacity within the largest secondary school district in California. As such, it is being implemented in phases; and its results can only be measured in relation to those phases.
The first critical phase was the development of infrastructure to ensure access to technology. A year prior to writing the grant proposal (1994-1995), none of the schools in the Sweetwater district were connected to the Internet. In the projects first year of funding (1996-1997), 100% of the schools were connected, and 25% of the classrooms had Internet access. By the end of the 1998-1999 academic year, 75% of the classrooms are projected to have Internet connections. Likewise, prior to ACT Now!, there was no systematic staff development designed to help teachers learn basic technology skills, let alone learn how to integrate technology into the curriculum. Now over 800 teachers have had 40 hours of training in technology applications and strategies for using technology to support the curriculum and they are making their first attempts at implementing what they have learned.
ACT Now! is not a narrow-band project that focuses on increasing 8th grade math scores, teaching a specific science concept, or raising reading comprehension scores. Instead, it is a broad-based, multi-faceted project being implemented in one of the most forward-looking and complex districts in the state and perhaps the nation. At this point, it is not possible, nor would it be ethical, to examine annual changes in student outcomes and attribute those changes to 40 hours of teacher training in technology. This is especially true in that teachers are making their first, tentative efforts at implementing web-based learning in classes as diverse as Honors English, ROTC, Chemistry, and English Language Development. Although we are gathering achievement scores, suspension and expulsion statistics, attendance records, and other district-wide data, we are not comfortable reporting or drawing any inferences about ACT Nows relationship to these data at this early point in implementation. When implementation becomes more robust, we will provide this information.
In any profession development program, post-training evaluation by participants provides extremely valuable insights to assist in program modification. In Region One, paper-based evaluations were used at most classes. Tabulating the answers and distributing the information to the instructors in a timely manner was difficult and time consuming.
This year, for Region Two, ACT Now! created an online evaluation system that was used by participants in most classes. The online evaluation consists of the same ten Likert-scale and three open-ended questions that were used in the Region One paper-based evaluation.
Participant responses to the online evaluation form are forwarded to a database on the ACT Now! web server. The system summarizes the responses for each class and makes them available instantly to instructors through a password-protected web page. Instructors can review results immediately after a class for valuable feedback on how the class was perceived by the participants.
The online evaluation can be viewed at: http://actnow.www.suhsd.k12.ca.us:591/Eval/Evaluation.html
Questions seek participant attitudes toward class pacing, organization, relevance and overall value. See the Attachments for a printout of the online evaluation questions.
During the last ten minutes of a class, participants are instructed to access the online evaluation and complete it. A few of the training labs do not have Internet connectivity and cannot access the online evaluations. Additionally, participants at a few lower level classes taught at the beginning of the year, did not have the necessary skills to complete the evaluation.
In order to maintain the integrity of the data, the evaluation system records the IP address of the computer sending the data, as well as the date and time of the submission. Program staff routinely check the database for duplicate and spurious data.
Instructors care about what the online evaluations report. Because the information can be accessed immediately after the class is over, instructors are able to reflect on the class in light of the participant comments. They find this information valuable in helping them improve their teaching. Instructors are also interested in how their evaluations compare to other instructors. On most Saturdays there are three similar classes running at our training sites and instructors always want to look at their evaluations to see how they compare to others teaching on the same day.
Observational Evaluation of ACT 101, 102, and 103
Teachers participating in ACT Now! sign a matriculation agreement in which they agree to attend 40 hours of inservice training in technology. ACT 101, 102, and 103 are each 8-hour experiences that comprise 24 hours of training. The remaining 16 hours can be selected from a wide range of shorter, elective courses that range from how to use specific applications to integrating technology into a 1-computer classroom. ACT classes are taught by ACT Now! project staff and/or members of the Teacher Training Quality Assurance Team (TTQAT), all of whom are experienced facilitators with expert knowledge in computer applications and technology integration. A training manual for each of the ACT classes is used to ensure that participants are provided the same content. Classes are offered on Saturdays in district technology labs that are either Mac or PC-based, depending upon the teachers preference.
A primary goal of the ACT classes is to provide teachers with a model for developing web-based instruction that could be used across subject areas and grade levels. The WebQuest model, developed by Dr. Bernie Dodge at San Diego State University and used nationally and internationally, was selected for this purpose. In this model, teacher developers select a content area and create a web-based unit of instruction that is authentic, supports state standards in the content area, engages students in analysis and synthesis, relies on small group interaction, requires transformations in understanding, and results in a product that can be assessed. WebQuests typically begin with a brief background scenario, describe roles and responsibilities for each student, and point students to web-based and other resources that they can use to accomplish their tasks. Units vary in length and can last from a day to several weeks. Fully developed WebQuests tend to occur over several weeks with a variety of technology-supported and non-technology-supported class periods.
What are the strengths of the ACT Now! class?
What aspects of the content or delivery may need modifications?
In addition to the on-line evaluation designed and conducted by project staff, members of the evaluation team attend two ACT classes in each series. Evaluators attempt to attend one class early in the series and a second late in the series. Observations are recorded throughout the day and a formal, written report is provided to project staff the following week. Several samples of these report memos can be found in the appendices of the Interim Evaluation Report.
Although findings are specific to each class observed, there are several generalizations that can be made: (1) knowledge of OS basics considerably improves participants ability to move to higher-level skills; (2) strategies need to be in place to accommodate both advanced and novice trainees; (3) a team of facilitators which includes a "technology guru" and someone with strong skills in curriculum and instructional design provides the optimal learning environment; (4) the concept of "transformations" is elusive and requires more explicit instruction; (5) the content and sequence of the ACT classes needs review prior to training in 1999-2000; and strategies that allow for easier interaction may need to be developed for some of the labs that are set up for individual, rather than group, instruction.
Each of these report memos was reviewed by the project staff. In many instances, changes and corrections were implemented for the following weeks training. In others, the project team will be making changes for the ACT classes which will be offered in 1999-2000.
Development of a Partners Database
ACT Now! has been active in seeking out community partners from business, industry, higher education, community, and government. These partners have been both contributors and learners, and all have contributed to accomplishing project goals.
A database for tracking partnerships was developed by the evaluation team to make it easier for project managers to gather data on the many project partnerships. The database, available on the World Wide Web, is currently being revised based on feedback provided by the Acting Project Director. One of the evaluation activities for next year will be to monitor the usability of the database and its value to project managers. See Appendix 2 of the Interim Evaluation Report for a more complete description of the range of partnerships that the project has established and maintained.
The range of partnerships is wide resulting in considerable support for project goals and activities. Information about these partnerships is highlighted below.
Measure of Parents Perspectives on Technology
One of the intents of ACT Now! is to ensure a partnership between families whose children are served by the Sweetwater Union High School District and the project. An initial step in this direction was made in late summer of 1998 when a Parent Summit was held. The Acting Project Director presented an overview of ACT Now! at the summit and solicited parents input on what the project could do for them. Concurrently, evaluation team members developed a survey instrument for parents and conducted a literature review on parent perceptions and attitudes about technology in the schools.
A short, written survey that addressed the evaluation questions and included additional demographic information about parents was developed by the evaluation team with input from project staff. The survey was administered by the Acting Project Director to parents who attended the Parent Summit. Completed surveys were returned to the evaluators and the results tabulated.
The 37 parent participants completed and returned the survey. A summary of the findings follows.
Change in Teachers Attitudes, Perspectives, & Use of Technology: Region 1
During the 1997-98 academic year, teachers and other school personnel in the ACT Now! Region 1 participated in a 40-hour training experience. Twenty-four of the hours were attendance at the ACT 101, 102, and 103 classes eight-hour experiences which focused on web-based curriculum development and integration. The WebQuest model of technology integration that was selected as the foundation for these classes was explained earlier in this report. In exchange for their time and commitment, teachers received a high-end Macintosh or PC for their classroom. ACT classes were developed and delivered by teams of project staff and members of the Teacher Training Quality Assurance Team (TTQAT). The remaining hours were selected by teachers from a menu of application-focused options.
Teachers were surveyed regarding their knowledge about, attitudes toward, and skills in using technology prior to their participation in ACT classes. They were re-surveyed in Spring of 1998 to determine what changes had occurred since they had participated in training provided by ACT Now!
A survey questionnaire was administered in the ACT 103 class to all participants. The survey, slightly modified from the baseline survey used the previous year, was distributed and collected prior to the end of class. The paper/pencil survey included 37 items, many of which had multiple parts. Because ACT classes targeted all teachers, not just a select group, administration in this setting was deemed appropriate and free of selection bias. Completed surveys were forwarded to the Social Science Research Lab at San Diego State University for data entry and analysis.
The 1997 baseline survey included 172 respondents from National City Middle School, Granger Junior High School, Sweetwater High School, and National City Adult School. The 1998 follow-up includes 148, 130 of which were from the same schools. The additional 13 were from teachers at a new school, some of whom had participated in the first year, Region 1 training, from two private schools, and from one junior high not in Region 1. Five respondents did not indicate their school. Although there were differences in absolute numbers, the proportions from each of the 4 Region 1 schools are within 1% of the proportion s represented in the baseline survey. A summary of findings follow. For the complete report, please refer to the stand-alone evaluation report.
1. After a year of intensive training, teachers are positive about technology and its instructional applications.
2. Teachers in Region 1 have almost universal access to computers and Internet connections in their classrooms. Over 2/3 have access to a printer in the classroom.
3. Teachers are using new applications to prepare instruction and new applications with students in the classroom.
4. Teachers report increased skills in some areas of technology use and decreases in others. Based on observations in the ACT 101, 102, and 103 training, it is likely that the decreases are based on a more realistic assessment of their skills.
5. Teachers expressed interest in additional training that focuses on integrating technology into instruction and increasing their repertoire of instructional strategies.
6. Teachers viewed staff development as far more important to developing their technology skills following the ACT Now! training.
7. ACT Now! has raised teachers expectations related to technology.
Teachers Attitudes, Perspectives, & Use of Technology: Region 2 Baseline
During this reporting period, ACT Now! Region 2 schools were identified and their teachers surveyed to develop a baseline prior to ACT Now! training. These data will be used to examine changes in teacher skills, use, and attitudes toward technology integration following their participation in the projects ACT classes and elective.
To determine teachers attitudes toward, knowledge about, and instructional uses of technology, a baseline survey was conducted in the Spring of 1998. Surveys were taken to the Region 2 schools by an ACT Now! staff member. The contact at the school was asked to distribute the surveys to teachers with a request for completion, and to return completed surveys to the ACT Now! office. Rather than using a sampling strategy, all teachers were asked to complete the surveys. This approach was selected with the goal of engaging every teacher in thinking about the questions on the survey. Thus, baseline data collection served as both an evaluation activity and a project development activity.
Teachers in the 5 middle schools and 3 high schools that comprise Region 2 were surveyed. A total of 382 surveys were returned out of a possible 555 teachers listed in the 1996 directory with a resultant return rate of 69%. However, 93 of the 382 respondents failed to turn to the final page and complete the demographic information. Those surveys were not included in the analysis. Therefore, the data reported are based on 289 respondents , approximately 52% of the potential respondents
Teachers in Region 2 who responded to the survey have many needs related to using technology and incorporating technology into their instruction. Basic infrastructure (hardware, software, and wiring) is lacking in many of their classrooms; and students have very limited access to technology. In spite of the infrastructure shortcomings, teachers who responded were positive about the project and its potential and were generally eager to participate in well-designed, flexibly-offered training opportunities. A summary of findings follows.
1. Teachers who responded reported that they and their students have limited access to technology. Forty-four percent do not have a computer in their classroom; 55% do not have a printer; and 87% of the classrooms in which they teach do not have Internet connections.
4. Nearly 3/4 (72%) reported that they have intermediate to mastery-level skills in word processing.
5. Nearly 1/3 to over 2/3 have no experience with common applications such as presentation software, e-mail, web browsers, graphics programs, multimedia authoring, and courseware.
6. With few exceptions, teachers are positive about increasing their skills in technology and participating in training.
7. With few exceptions, teachers are positive about the opportunities that ACT Now! will bring to them and their students.
8. Although very few teachers expressed negativity or disinterest in technology, many expressed anxiety about their lack of computer skills and the way in which the training would be conducted.
Administrators' Attitudes, Perspectives, & Use of Technology
During the present reporting period, ACT Now! site and district administrators were surveyed to determine their self-reported knowledge about, attitudes toward, and skills in using technology. Data were collected during a professional development day conducted by ACT Now! program managers. This effort was intended to a) help administrators better understand the range of skills on which district teachers are being trained and b) elicit their direct support for teachers as they work to apply/adapt their training with students in the classroom.
As noted, data were collected during a professional development day conducted by ACT Now! program managers during the Spring 1998 semester. Fifty-seven participants completed surveys, representing all three educational levels served by the district (middle school = 47%, high school = 49%, adult school represents 4%). About 14% of all respondents were principals, and about 75% were vice principals. Another 25% included program directors, counselors, and other non-classroom school personnel.
Minor problems in survey delivery that may have influenced the data summary that follows. First, attendees at the professional development day at which the survey was administered included school personnel who do not have fit the traditional administrator profile. Secondly, the survey did not contain an item that allowed respondents to select the region of the district to which their school belongsmeaning we could not distinguish between administrators of schools where teachers have already been trained (Region 1) and those at schools whose teachers are being trained this year (Region 2) and next (Region 3). We therefore cannot represent with certainty that the survey results completely reflect attitudes, beliefs and feelings of those who directly oversee school operations on a daily basis.
Administrators in the Sweetwater Union High School District clearly support technologyand, more specifically, the professional development opportunities made available through the ACT Now! Challenge Grant. Such support is clearly evidenced by the following:
Students Attitudes, Perspectives, & Use of Technology: Region 1 Baseline
During this reporting period, ACT Now! students in Region 1 schools were surveyed to develop a baseline prior to their teachers completion of ACT Now! training. Baseline data will be used to examine changes in student skills in, use of, and perspectives on technology over the life of the project.
In the Spring of 1998 student surveys were initially developed with consultation from the ACT Now! staff. The lead evaluator then contacted principals in the middle, junior high, and high school in the region to solicit their input on the surveys and the method of administration that would work best for their school. After incorporating their suggestions, the surveys were transferred to Scantron forms by the San Diego State University Test Office. [Note: The form included in the stand-alone, evaluation report is the paper/pencil version, not Scantron. The questions remain the same; only the formatting differs.]
In spite of the large numbers of students involved, principals preferred a survey of the total population rather than a sampling procedure. After obtaining a list of teachers, numbers of students, and the numbers of surveys needed in English and Spanish for the period in which the survey was to be conducted, individual packets were made for each teacher. These packets included the teachers name, the number of surveys included, directions for administration, and directions for turning in completed surveys. Packets were delivered to the Principal in Region 1 schools by an evaluator and collected by an evaluator following the administration date.
Surveys were returned from 2665 students. However, 374 students did not indicate which school they attended; and their surveys were not included in the analysis. Therefore the findings presented in this summary are based upon a maximum of 2291 students. Students responding were almost equally divided between the middle/junior high and the high school with the largest number of students in middle or junior high school and smaller numbers in high school. This enrollment pattern reflects the growth within the district.
Students were also nearly equally divided by gender with 52% female and 48% male. Cultural and linguistic diversity was also reflective of the district with Latino, Filipino, African American, Asian American, American Indian, Pacific Islanders, and "other" students comprising 99% of the respondents. The majority or students were from homes in which Spanish is the primary language.
1. Fewer than half the students surveyed had a computer at home, and fewer than 1/4 had access to the Internet.
2. In absolute numbers, families in which Spanish was the language of the home were less likely to own a computer than families from other linguistic groups.
Supplemental Case Studies
The initial goals of ACT Now! are the development of infrastructure and staff development and training in technology integration. Although the ultimate goal is to enhance student outcomes, this cannot be accomplished until hardware, software, and connectivity are available and teachers have been trained in and embrace the use of technology within the curriculum. Because of the phasing-in of infrastructure and training, measuring student outcomes is premature; however, project managers and evaluators wanted to develop a way to capture the changes which involve teachers, students, and administrators that are beginning to occur in schools and classrooms. With support from supplemental federal funds, the evaluation team initiated three case studies in the first middle school, junior high, and high school to be impacted by the project. Strategies for observing and recording were developed by the team and pilot tested during the second year of the project. During this year (year 3) two evaluators have been gathering data at the three schools.
1. What are the characteristics of the school?
2. What are the characteristics of classrooms and labs?
3. What are the characteristics of teachers and students?
4. What learning processes are occurring in each classroom?
5. How do the lessons make meaningful connections to the world outside the classroom?
6. How are students benefiting from using technology-enriched lessons?
7. How are students progressing toward desired outcomes?
8. What are the impacts of ACT Now! on teachers?
Consistent with the literature on case study methodology, a multi-method approach to data collection has been implemented. Evaluators become immersed in the schools being studied and collect data using strategies that include: (1) classroom observations, (2) guided interviews with teachers, students, administrators, and other school personnel, and (3) record and document review. At this point in the school year, the case studies are not complete. However, findings-to-date are described in the bullets that follow, and the preliminary case study reports are included in Appendix 8 of the Interim Evaluation Report.
The findings that follow are only preliminary and cannot be assumed to fully describe the schools and the transformations that are occurring. However, several of the generalizations that are emerging are highlighted.
SECTION V: Supplemental Information / Changes
Looking ahead to our fourth year, we have identified a few changes that we expect will increase the effectiveness of the ACT Now! program.
Distributed training. This year, a few TTQAT trainers offered ACT Now! classes at their own school sites and enjoyed better-than-average attendance. Teachers have expressed a desire to have training opportunities at their own site after school instead of having to travel to a centrally located lab. As more and more sites create their own computer labs, the possibility of providing onsite training increases. Next year, we will offer the same ratio of classes to participants, but we will hold more of them at multiple Region Three sites.
Increased Scheduling Flexibility. Eight-hour Saturday classes just don't fit into some people's schedules. In year three, we will divide the 24 hours of our core curriculum into four-hour classes, allowing participants to attend morning or afternoon sessions. Further, some participants have indicated that their ACT classes were too far apart - they didn't retain information from one class to the next. Region Three ACT classes will be on a rolling schedule allowing a participant to take the complete 24-hour course of study within a two-month time period.
Multiple Curriculum Paths. We are beginning to find more and more teachers who already have considerable computer experience. New hires, in particular, may have already been exposed to the WebQuest through their credential program. Some of the seasoned teachers have gotten Master's degrees in Educational Technology. A WebQuest-focused course of study may not be particularly beneficial for these people. We are currently developing new programs that will address different needs including a seminar in technology integration that would result in publication of a handbook for teachers, and course designed to prepare teachers to meet the technology requirements for a professional clear credential.
Community Outreach. We are exploring the possibility of inviting parents to attend the same computer training as our teachers, with the expectation that they would then volunteer a like amount of hours at their child's school.
Letters of Support