Kyrene School District has found a way to help its students demonstrate academic growth by updating its walk-through procedure with the use of iPads.

"Kyrene has received $6.8 million from a capital override, thanks to support from taxpayers," said Karin Smith, chief financial and operations officer for the district. "This is far more than we've ever received through the state funding formula and it helps fund items such as iPads, which cost $500 a piece."

Each iPad is equipped with a duplicate of Kyrene's Improvement Walk-Through Instrument form, but is not readily available to just anyone. The authority to use an iPad within district schools is in the hands of principals and certain district-level personnel.

Patricia Weegar, director of instructional services at Kyrene, was the founding principal of Akimel A-al Middle School and recalled what a walk-through was like pre-iPads.

"There are 1,200 classes and two different types of walk-through procedures for reading and math. We used to do these on pieces of paper," she said. "That piece of paper has been applied to a program on the iPad and we now have a more formulized walk-through procedure because with iPads, we are able to do these in a more organized fashion."

Weegar explained that iPads make the walk-through procedures more user friendly, adding that during a walk-through, the principal observes teachers in the classrooms and the way they engage with students.

"The most important thing is that students have the best possible education and it all starts with the teacher," Weegar said. "The teacher is the most important person in a school district."

Principals conduct walk-through procedures ideally every week. Kyrene's Improvement Walk Through Instrument form is a checklist that each principal fills out during the process. Weegar noted that iPads make the process easier because iPads allow a principal to click on different strands and folders to save the information in a more organized way. She said electronic versions of the paper forms make creating teacher feedback and coaching easier.

"Technology is like a pencil, it is just a tool of this generation," said Kelly Alexander, spokeswoman for the Kyrene School District, adding that with an iPad as a technological tool, Kyrene principals are able to take the data gathered from a walk-through and organize it in a fashion that easily creates an evaluation of a teacher, which then helps coach each teacher in a more efficient way.

Weegar said evaluations are vital to the learning of students because teachers then have the ability to create a more engaging learning environment that will help students excel at Kyrene's blueprint goal No. 1, which is to "demonstrate academic growth on a continuous basis."

She added that each iPad is set up with links to a database and it helps principals look up the correct curriculum a specific grade level should have and observe if each teacher is teaching at the appropriate level.

"There are many reasons that a teacher could possibly be teaching above or below the grade level objective, and that is always a good question to ask during a coaching conference," Weegar said.

Technology is just a tool, but it is a tool that is helping the Kyrene School District succeed in monitoring its student's academic growth. With each iPad set up, district principals are able to walk through classrooms and easily evaluate teachers and coach them in any needed way. With a more organized way of collecting data, the academic growth of students is better monitored and each teacher is given an opportunity to create a more engaging learning environment for students.

 

• Sara Dalton is a junior at The Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University.

 

 

(2) comments

kingdomservant
kingdomservant

So, the Kyrene School District took some of the $6.8 million approved by the voters to buy iPads? When everyone else is forced to cut back in this recession, the school district believes this is a proper use of taxpayer funds?
The article says they used to do the walkthroughs on pieces of paper. Well, cry me a river! The article continues to say "The teacher is the most important person in a school district". Who knew? I thought it was the student, but I must be mistaken.
This is an incredible puff piece that seems to have no purpose other than to gush about how wonderful iPads are for teachers and for principals. Somehow it seems that students could be far better served without the district wasting taxpayer money for unnecessary fluff.

LearnngEveryDay
LearnngEveryDay

These iPADs are IMPROVING TEACHING and Learning. That's the point. The cost is 10 CENTS and the result is much better learning. Read on:
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Kyrene is working on making better teachers. The point of a Walk-Thru is for the principal to observe and then coach the teacher to do a better job.
There are lot of things involved in coaching a teacher to do a better job.
.... So Kyrene uses a "Check List" to make sure that all the right aspects of teaching are being done by the teacher.
... That "Check List" is very long, and fairly complex. To make it easier to use, it's on a database.
*** ***
... The end result of using that database via an iPad is :
#1- The teachers get feedback and corrective information about their work over a longer period of time. It's not just about how the teacher is doing today, it's about this whole semester, year, and several years. With this better tool, principals will have information about a teacher's growth (or lack of it).
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#2- The teacher gets feedback that is very specific to "ARE YOU TEACHING WHAT YOU SHOULD BE TEACHING?"
Teaching is not just about standing at the front of the room talking about your subject. You must deliver content that will produce the outcome of helping this specific set of students to learn what they need to learn next. What they need to learn is spelled out as "Performance Objectives" in the Kyrene curriculum and described in the AZ Standards.
BTW -- The AZ Standards get an "A" rating year after year from conservative and liberal and less-biased organizations.
Akimel has over 1000 students. The cost of $500 to make sure that all those students are getting better instruction is not much. Let me do the math for you: 10 CENTS per STUDENT per year.

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