Computers urged for teachers

Enabling teachers to make instant "data-driven" decisions and keeping parents informed about their children's class work has long been talked about in Richmond County, but it could become reality.

 

On Thursday, a sales tax oversight committee recommended spending $813,174 to purchase 866 computers. The purchase would ensure every Richmond County teacher has a dedicated computer, which can be used for student grades, test scores and communicating with parents through iParent.

"iParent has hovered around for years and never been fully implemented," Superintendent Dana Bedden said.

The program allows teachers to record their students' grades, attendance, test scores and discipline records on a secure Web site that parents can log into.

Last month, the school board began requiring all teachers to use iParent, but hundreds of them didn't have a computer to use for confidential tasks.

There has been a significant interest in iParent, Dr. Bedden said, adding that he receives a few e-mails every month asking that it be implemented at all schools.

Currently, only five Richmond County schools use the program, although all are capable of implementing it.

The computers also will enable teachers to use the school system's new "data director," a software program that compiles a student's grades and test scores and enables a teacher to instantly see a student's strengths and weaknesses.

"That is powerful when you're able to focus in and zoom in on what the students have been having trouble in for three years," Kim Stripling, Richmond County's Web master, told the committee. "That just blew me away."

A teacher, for instance, can immediately tell whether a student has been struggling with fractions and tailor instruction to address that need, she said.

"I remember running down to the vault and pulling all those records," Ms. Stripling said.

Director of Educational Media and Technology Carol Taylor compared it to seeing a doctor.

"The computer is the vital tool to diagnose and help that child," she said.

The school board could approve the committee's recommendation as soon as next week at its monthly meetings.

Reach Greg Gelpi at (706) 828-3851 or greg.gelpi@augustachronicle.com.