Hour of Code: Obama shout-out for Sherman Oaks students part of global event to help promote computer skills
By Thomas Himes, Los Angeles Daily News | http://bit.ly/1zJJtRd
12/08/14, 6:47 PM PST :: Hundreds of Los Angeles Unified students participated Monday in a global event aimed at promoting computer skills, listening to speeches by industry leaders and receiving a video shout-out from President Barack Obama.
Board member Tamar Galatzan attended the “Hour of Code” kickoff at North Hollywood High School. About 75 students gathered at the school to give demonstrations, learn computer coding and hear from industry experts as part of the worldwide initiative that is expected to be observed by 15 million pupils.
“I want to make sure our students are prepared for college or the workforce by not just knowing how to use technology, but how to create it,” Galatzan said.
North Hollywood High School students heard how technological innovations will transform the medical field and open job opportunities for tech-savvy workers in a talk with a guest speaker and representative of the website Omaze.com.
A speaker from Microsoft also told students about other opportunities to watch out for, including developing advertising for companies such as Twitter.
“It’s not that you need to learn to code so you can develop an app and become a millionaire by the time you’re 20, but the skills are used every day in businesses in the entertainment industry and so many other fields,” Galatzan said.
Van Nuys High School and Sherman Oaks Center for Enriched Studies also took part in Monday’s festivities.
The worldwide initiative’s sponsor, Code.org, awarded a $10,000 grant for Van Nuys High School to develop a schedule that allowed every student to participate in the Hour of Code initiative.
Meanwhile, 850 students in grades kindergarten through fifth gathered in front of a 16-foot screen that was set up on the playground at the Sherman Oaks Center to watch the acknowledgment from Obama and interactive sessions including games.
LAUSD students might not be ready for new tests as iPad distribution lags
By Thomas Himes, Los Angeles Daily News | http://bit.ly/1zJLH2O
12/08/14, 7:31 PM PST :: As Los Angeles Unified rushes to spend $22.2 million to buy iPads and some Chromebooks for students to take new tests, school board members worry the tight timeline will leave pupils unprepared.
While some students piloted California’s new standardized tests, called Smarter Balanced, last year, starting in March the district will need to give the exams in math and English to all 350,000 pupils in grades three through eight and junior year of high school.
But ensuring all 68,302 devices are sent to schools — 21,665 have yet to be bought, while others are sitting at central offices — could be a problem in the district that has struggled to implement technology, board member Monica Ratliff said in a written statement.
“Schools have been waiting for months for the return of devices that LAUSD already owns,” Ratliff said. “In light of our difficulty in assuring a timely return of devices we already paid for and possess, I am concerned about schools relying on the hope of receiving more devices in a timely manner.”
Last year’s pilot test efforts were troubled. LAUSD provided the devices to schools not long before students were expected to take the tests. Connecting to the Internet also presented an obstacle, as bandwidth was overloaded by the exams, which require high-speed connections.
Additionally, deploying devices to schools became a fiasco, as poor inventory controls caused LAUSD to lose track of 3,072 iPads — 31 percent of those examined for a July audit by LAUSD’s inspector general.
Most recently, an FBI investigation into the deal that was supposed to buy $1.3 billion worth of iPads factored into Superintendent Ramon Cortines’ decision last week to cancel the contract and send it back out to bid.
If board members today agree to spend an additional $13 million on iPads and computers for testing, iPads would be purchased under a different contract that offers the same price, $552 for each. About 75 percent of the yet-to-be purchased devices for testing will be iPads.
The contract previously used to buy iPads for both testing and instruction came under scrutiny after emails revealed that high-level district officials were in talks with representatives of Pearson, the company that eventually won the bid to create curriculum for the devices, before formally inviting other companies to bid.
In an email sent to district officials Monday, Cortines wrote it could be months before federal officials decide if they want to move forward, interviewing witnesses and serving subpoenas for testimony in front of a grand jury.
“In the meantime, the district presently is in the process of retaining outside counsel with experience in such matters to provide legal advice,” Cortines wrote.
But Ratliff was among board members last month who called on state officials to delay using test results (Smarter Balanced Assessment Curriculum) until next year. The 2015 scores are set to be used in measuring the performance and progress of LAUSD and its students, teaching and learning under the new Common Core Curriculum.
“I would appreciate a delay in using SBAC results to make any judgments on students, teachers or schools at this time because I believe some of our students’ lack of familiarity with the technology, testing platform and keyboarding skills will negatively impact their scores through absolutely no fault of the student, teacher or school,” Ratliff said.
The State Board of Education could consider delaying the formal reporting of test results when it reconvenes in January or March.
Schools will have 12 weeks, starting in early March, to administer the exams, while most are expected to test students sometime in April.
“I don’t think anyone knows what to expect,” board member Tamar Galatzan said. “I think there’s two issues here: How many devices are we going to be able to get, and are we going to be able to get them in time for testing.”
The district’s current plan calls for all 46,637 previously purchased iPads to be sent to 949 schools by Dec. 19 and 21,665 yet-to-be bought devices to be deployed to 557 schools in late January and early February.
Even if LAUSD manages to distribute the devices in time, Galatzan said she worries educators and students won’t have enough time to become familiar with using them on the new exams. Galatzan said she formed those concerns after reviewing a sample math question that asked students to graph their answers.
“Even if those kids know the answer and how to graph it, are they going to be able to do it on the iPad in the way that the test needs it to be answered?” Galatzan asked.
LAUSD spokeswoman Shannon Haber said district staff are preparing to post resources online that will help educators, students and their parents become familiar with the devices.
Cynthia Lim, executive director of the department that oversees the deployment of devices for the Smarter Balanced tests, said the district has cured its Internet access problems by purchasing portable carts that offer high-speed Internet access for test-takers.
Additionally, while schools can start administering the tests in early March, she expects most will wait until April. Schools will have until early June to complete testing, Lim said.
As for inventory and tracking, in August, LAUSD started using the same system it employs to track library and text books. As of Nov. 20, district officials report they couldn’t locate 251 out of 90,713 iPads purchased before February 2014, according to a memorandum last month from LAUSD’s director of Common Core Technology Program, Bernadette Lucas.
But United Teachers Los Angeles President Alex Caputo-Pearl said he still worries.
“Our concern is that we don’t want a repeat of last year where educators, students and schools were not prepared and the technology was not prepared and it ended up being a fiasco,” Caputo-Pearl said.