For the sixth year, the Howell Township Public School District has been named one of the top technologically advanced school districts in the nation. This year, the Howell Township Public School District placed first in the Top 10 of all medium-sized school districts nationwide, in the 2010 Digital School Districts Survey. School districts from across the United States took part in the survey and were placed into three classifications based on size of enrollment: large (15,000 students or more), medium (2,500 to 14,999 students) and small (below 2,500 students).
The study, underwritten by Microsoft and sponsored by e.Republic’s Center for Digital Education, the National School Boards Association and Converge magazine, analyzes the use of technology by school boards and school districts to enhance curriculum, engage students, govern the district, communicate with students, parents, staff and the community, and how it is implemented to improve district operations.
The Howell Township School District is utilizing various communications technologies to increase efficiency, conserve resources, and strengthen the home-school connection that is so important to student achievement. Through the use of the Parent Portal, the district provides families with online access to information about their child’s classroom assignments, grades, attendance, and the ability to update emergency contact and Code Red Broadcasting information. Additionally, the Parent Portal includes a direct link feature which allows parents to interact electronically with teachers by means of e-mail.
Visitors to the school district’s website can obtain Board agendas, minutes, meeting dates, policies, as well as budget information. The website is programmed with digital features such as a RSS web feeds and a listserv subscription service as a means to keep the community informed. Individuals can subscribe to these automated push technology services to receive immediate updates when new content is published to the district website, in addition to emails on matters of interest to them. In the past year, the district had nearly 800,000 total visits to its web sites and currently has 10,942 members who subscribe to their listserv.
The school district also provides electronic commerce to the community. Parents have the ability to access a LunchBox Parent Portal to make on-line deposits to their child’s lunch account and monitor their eating history.
Students in the Howell Township Public Schools are utilizing digital and computer-based tools to compose and share original pieces of music, in addition to constructing cyber-bullying safety music videos and Internet safety audio podcasts to demonstrate and communicate their knowledge of cyber-safety, personal security, and online responsibility. The district also offers technology classes to middle school students that focus on advanced skills such as robotics engineering, computer programming and video game production.
Since 2006, students in the Howell Schools have been administered dynamic computerized assessments, which adapt to a child’s academic level during the course of the test. The intuitive tools are designed to provide academic information to assist educators to differentiate instruction based on the individual learning needs of students, and help teachers to make the best decisions regarding instructional and curriculum planning.
Through the use of a SharePoint portal, administrators can post curriculum and student achievement data, and teachers can share best practices and resources for lessons. “We are continuing to explore and incorporate free web-based tools, as a cost-effective alternative to purchasing expensive software, and a way to extend our learning environment” said Howell Township’s Supervisor of Instructional Technology Claire Engle. “The limitless web tools that are available provide our students and staff with digital resources that they can utilize outside the school walls.” This fall, the district established a free Google Apps domain, which will allow students, teachers and administrators to communicate and collaborate utilizing the suite of free web-based applications.
"Expanding our broadband services has provided us a network to increase efficiencies, and more fully enabled us to provide students with enriched educational opportunities to meet their needs, while preparing them to thrive in a dynamic 21st century world,” stated Superintendent of Schools Dr. Enid Golden. “We are honored to once again be among the top winners nationwide, and to be recognized for our ongoing use of technology.”
Cathilea Robinett, executive vice president of the Center for Digital Education, said, “One of the most critical areas of effective school leadership for America’s school boards today involves the wise use of technology to provide better communication, support student learning, and track district results. The 2010 survey responses reflect how boards and districts are embracing digital technologies in their goals and strategic plans, resulting in improved services, skill sets and use of digital content in their curriculum and classrooms.”
“With rising expectations and shrinking resources, these districts have utilized technology to effectively serve their students, educators, and community members,” said NSBA’s Executive Director Anne L. Bryant. “School boards across the country should look to these districts for ideas about using technology to make their work as a board more transparent and their district operations more efficient.”