Montclair Times: Tech in Montclair Schools Moving Forward

A few months back we wrote about the absurd debate around technology in our schools here in Montclair – particularly with regard to the attacks on the district for the limited investments that are being made:

To put those numbers in context, the Board of School Estimate approved a $116 million budget for the Montclair School District and set aside $1 million for technology improvements.  All of the districts mentioned above devoted more than 1% (some closer to 2%) of their budgets to technology improvements.  And still Maia Davis and MCAS insist that $1 million of a $116 million budget – just 0.8%! – is too much. If anything, we’re investing at a far lower level than we should be.

All of this is not even considering that a recent technology inventory revealed that technology in Montclair schools lags behind other districts

We were happy to read a story in the Montclair Times taking on this technology issue and highlighting the progress the district has been making

“A lot of schools were running on Chalk 2.0,” joked Barry Haines, the new technology director for the Montclair School District.

While this was said in jest, it captures the serious technology deficiencies that have existed in Montclair schools – deficiencies the district has been working to remedy.

Since coming to Montclair four months ago, Haines has led a district-wide initiative to upgrade educational technologies and make these offerings equally accessible to all students. The first steps of what Haines told The Montclair Times will be a three-year plan to improve technology will come online with the start of classes in September. These include a tenfold boost to the district’s bandwidth, the rate at which a network can transfer data, expressed in bits per second; improved wireless access in school buildings; mobile computers for teachers in grades six through 12; and hundreds of new computers for students.

As the story notes, these investments are not about testing, they’re about providing our kids with the resources they need to succeed at a basic and equitable level. Really, it’s incredible that they’re controversial at all (and that the push isn’t to instead be increasing them). As our post noted, we’re investing a comparably low level of our budget in technology, something we should be working to fix. And predictably, that underfunding has left us with a gap in the resources we’ve been providing students:

the impetus for the specific upgrades now being enacted comes from the findings of an internal technology audit conducted this past spring.

This audit highlighted significant inequality in the availability of technology resources in the district, with some schools having a three-to-one student-to-computer ratio and others with a ratio as high as 11-to-one.

In addition the audit found that the district’s broadband internet connection was grossly inadequate, with speeds that Haines likened to those provided by America Online via dial-up service in the mid-1990s.

Anyway, great to see the district making these important investments, and we hope that it’s something that folks can come together around as progress. To us, it further highlights how extreme the views of Davis, Fine, and the rest of the MCAS crowd are – and how willing they are to sacrifice basic, necessary educational resources in pursuit of their national political crusade, regardless of the costs to students here in Montclair.

 

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