Southeastern PA

3 school districts to become national role models for educational technology

QUAKERTOWN, Pa. - Three local school districts – Quakertown, Salisbury and Southern Lehigh – are among only 20 across the United States that have been selected to strengthen their education technology through an initiative called Project RED.

The three are the only Pennsylvania school districts chosen to participate.

Those 20 districts will collaborate and learn from each other on a one-to-one basis throughout the 2012-13 school year.

On Thursday night, Tom Murray, director of technology and cyber education at Quakertown Community School District, told his school board: "As one of 20 school districts in the nation, you guys should be proud of your school district for being selected. It's absolutely a big deal."

Murray told the board that the most important goal of the program is to find the best ways to use the district's technology to help more students achieve academic success.

He said in 2010, the non-profit Project RED studied nearly 1,000 school districts to determine the best practices to implement educational technology --"what is it that works."

Project RED conducted that first large-scale national study to learn why some kindergarten to 12th grade technology implementations perform dramatically better than others.

That study determined a well–implemented technology program can reduce discipline problems and drop-out rates, while improving standardized test scores and graduation rates.

"Are these not the things you care about as a school board?" Murray asked the board.

The "red" in Project RED stands for "revolutionizing education."

"What's fabulous about Project RED is we get to be part of a group that's going to be analyzing and giving us feedback on our programs," said Murray. "I will be meeting monthly with people from across the country to get feedback on how do we do it better."

Murray reminded Quakertown's board that it has invested a lot of money in technology in the last few years.

"Districts can spend a lot of money on technology," said Murray. "They can buy things like smart boards that become paperweights in classrooms if they are not used well."

He said Project RED's study determined "districts that implement technology well save money. Your money will be used better if you implement technology better. But most importantly, how is our technology helping the achievement of kids?" 

The non-profit "prestigious program" has a competitive, three-tiered application process. "It was very selective," said Murray. "To get into the 20, you had to have a lot of things in place." Specifically, he said the district had to meet a 1,400-point checklist to participate.

Project RED will review the technology implementation plans of the 20 districts and help them align those plans to its own research-based strategies. Project RED said those districts eventually will become "best-practice models" for other school districts to emulate.

The 20 selected districts "have made a definitive commitment to improve student learning and provide personalized instruction through a meaningful integration of technology, ongoing professional development and administrator support," said Project RED spokeswoman Leslie Wilson in a news release. "We were impressed with their initial plans and look forward to helping them use outcomes of our research to move their initiatives to the next level."

That release was given to reporters at the end of the board meeting by Quakertown Superintendent Lisa Andrejko. It listed Salisbury and Southern Lehigh as among the 20 districts. 

Intel Corporation is the founding sponsor of Project Red. Lead sponsors for 2012-13 are Intel and Hewlett-Packard. Additional sponsors include SMART Technologies and the Pearson Foundation.

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