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.