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Schools to get laptops

Federal grant will buy 160 Chromebooks for Julia P., Williams James

Schools to get laptops

Schools to get laptops

Bulloch County school leaders have a plan they believe will boost student performance and narrow the achievement gap among learners at two schools cited by the Georgia Department of Education.
Board of Education members agreed Thursday, during a regular meeting, to use federal grant money to purchase 160 Chromebook laptop computers to be used by students at Julia B. Bryant Elementary and William James Middle schools.
Nearly $50,000 in grant funding will be used to purchase the new equipment.
The resources are intended to improve learning for the schools’ lowest achievers, and help offset wide performance gaps found among students at both schools. 
“Every kid has the ability to learn. What it comes down to, in many situations, is some kids have access to more tools than others, which makes it easier for them to learn and improve,” said Nate Pennington, the principal at Julia P. Bryant. “Then, there are kids that struggle with that; and we have to find ways and resources to help facilitate them having more access to materials. Using a Chromebook, you’re tapping into a kid’s love of technology, so they’re more willing to stay with it, and they’re going to have better ways to communicate with people and look up information on their own.”
Funding used to purchase the computers is part of a $106,000 Title I-A School Improvement Grant provided to Bulloch County by state educational agencies.
The money was awarded to Julia P. Bryant and William James Middle because of their designation by the Georgia Department of Education as “Focus Schools” in 2012 (based on 2011 standardized testing data).
Focus schools are one of four accountability designations for schools (Priority, Focus, Reward and Alert) under Georgia’s new accountability system, the College and Career Readiness Performance Index, or CCRPI, said Hayley Greene, the public relations and marketing specialist for Bulloch County Schools.
CCRPI replaced Adequate Yearly Progress, the accountability tool used under the federal No Child Left Behind Act. The new performance index is part of a system approved by the U.S. Department of Education when it granted Georgia a waiver from some No Child Left Behind requirements.  
The two schools received the Focus designation because of large achievement gaps found between the highest and lowest performing students. Under the old system, and using the same 2011 data, both schools would have been classified as Title I Distinguished Schools, Greene said.
According to the principals at William James and Julia P. Bryant, the computers (also, iPads and other support materials at William James Middle) will be available to students who need instruction beyond regular classroom activities.
The Chromebooks will be used primarily by students taking part in after-school and summer remediation programs. At least at first, the students will not be allowed to take the laptops home.
“You’ll find that kids who may struggle in the regular classroom setting, can use these resources in a one-on-one environment, with a mentor or teacher, to produce a better product than they normally would,” Pennington said. “The students can do independent research after school, with the teacher/advisor, to learn how to find information they need, and use it.”
The proposal passed by the board Thursday says in part: “By providing this extra instruction, the expectation is that the scores of local and state standardized assessments will increase.”

Jeff Harrison may be reached at (912) 489-9454.

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