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Detroit Public Schools is in the process of digitizing its curriculum and materials through a new Web-based portal for teachers, administrators, students and parents that is designed to help raise student achievement and align curriculum system-wide.
Teachers and administrators will be able to go online to access textbooks, instructional strategies, lesson plans, student benchmark assessments, pacing guides and other materials, such as training podcasts, through the new Internet-based technology platform, called Learning Village. Learning Village, a districtwide curriculum management system, is being funded through federal stimulus dollars.
The district now is in the process of developing a training plan to introduce teachers to the new integrated system, through which Detroit educators will become part of a district-wide learning community – sharing experiences, gaining universal access to best practices and information, and engaging in discussion forums with their peers.
Parents and students also will be able to tap into the system, allowing them to access students’ individual assessment results, teachers’ cumulative classroom test results, as well as textbooks and other learning materials. Parents also can participate and collaborate in online forums with parents, teachers, students and administrators.
“Learning Village is going to revolutionize the way teachers teach and students learn and is an essential part of our plan to increase student achievement. In turnaround districts, this is key to building coherence and uniformity across the district,” said Barbara Byrd-Bennett, Chief Academic and Accountability Auditor. “This online one-stop shop will tie together the curriculum of the entire school system like we have never seen before, and it will allow teachers and administrators to alter their instruction based on the strengths and weaknesses of their students and schools through an intricate data tracking system.”
“Learning Village promises to give every teacher and administrator – and eventually every parent and student – access to the best lesson plans, learning materials and instructional strategies that we have to offer through a simple Internet-based tool,” Byrd-Bennett said.
Textbooks and materials are being downloaded on an ongoing basis to the online Learning Village portal. The system also will allow teachers and schools to add and share their own materials, such as lesson plans and podcasts.
The system is a key to improving accountability by allowing administrators to analyze student performance and identify the resources that effectively guide individualized instruction.
Some features of Learning Village include:
*Teachers will be able to track individual student assessment results and class assessment results and compare to statewide results.
*Teachers will be able to track areas of weaknesses and strengths of individual students and classes based on their data and have access to online instructional strategies, intervention materials, podcasts and lesson plans to correspond with achievement gaps.
*Parents will be able to access students’ textbooks and other materials online.
*Parents will be able to access student achievement results for their child’s class and for their individual child.
*Administrators will be able to track their teachers’ and school’s assessments with the goal of driving instruction based on strengths and weaknesses.
*Teachers and district personnel can create their own approved podcasts, lesson plans and training materials to be uploaded and broadly accessible.
*Teachers will have access to a broad range of best practices and other professional development materials and will be able to communicate and collaborate with each other through online discussion groups and forums.
To date, about 85 percent of pre-kindergarten teachers already have been trained on a language fluency assessment, called DIBELS (Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills) for early learners, which is being integrated into the Learning Village system. Teachers use a hand-held computer device to conduct the assessments of each child.
Learning Village is part of a $40 million contract with Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. The Houghton Mifflin contract includes about $16 million for hard-copy supplemental literacy materials to fill the gap between the district’s adopted curriculum and both state and NAEP assessments and to offer intervention support to students who need additional learning opportunities. The balance of the performance-based contract includes costs for the Learning Village system itself, mathematics materials and technical support.
The district’s goal is that by fall, all teachers throughout DPS should be able to log on and access the system, which will continue to be populated with new materials, as well as the district’s current instructional materials, throughout 2010-11. The system, which is permanently owned by the district through a perpetual license, will continuously be updated as new materials are available. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt will also have 13 dedicated staff assigned to Detroit.
“I view technology as the great equalizer, and I believe our students, teachers, administrators and parents should have access to the best instructional tools available,” Byrd-Bennett said.