'Classrooms for the Future' Shown to Positively Impact Students, Improve Learning Environment
Study of Program's 1st Year Finds More Student Interaction, Focus on
21st Century Skills
HARRISBURG, Pa., Dec. 3 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- An independent study of Pennsylvania's innovative Classrooms for the Future initiative has found that the program is improving the quality of high school instruction, resulting in stronger engagement by students and teachers and an intensified focus on critical thinking and problem-solving skills. "The goal of Classrooms for the Future is to transform and enhance how educators teach and students learn, and this study shows our effort is working," Education Secretary Gerald L. Zahorchak said. "We are giving our students the tools they need to compete and succeed in the high-skills, knowledge-based workforce of the 21st century." Classrooms for the Future is a three-year effort to provide laptop computers, high-speed Internet access, state-of-the-art software and intensive teacher training and support to high school classrooms across the state in the core subjects of English, math, science and social studies. The plan calls for every Pennsylvania public high school to be a participant in Classrooms for the Future by 2009. As part of its commitment to ensuring accountability for the use of taxpayer resources, the Department of Education commissioned Penn State University to conduct the independent study of the program's effectiveness. Researchers, led by Penn State faculty, evaluated Classrooms for the Future schools for several months during the 2006-07 school year, the program's first year. Evaluation methods included classroom observations, teacher and student surveys, and interviews with Classrooms for the Future coaches, principals and liaisons to assess the progress being made. Among the findings: -- Observers and students reported that teachers spent significantly less time in whole-class lectures and more time working with small groups of students and interacting with individual students. -- Teachers reported that students spent significantly more time working in groups and even the physical setup of classrooms often changed to accommodate more collaborative student learning. -- There was a notable shift in the nature of assignments given to students, moving away from worksheets and toward "real world" topics and teaching styles in which students gain understanding through activities and hands-on projects. -- A before-and-after analysis of Classrooms for the Future indicated students using the technology tools in learning spent significantly less time "off task" (doing things other than what the teacher had intended) and there was a significant increase in the level of engagement. -- Teachers' attitudes changed, reflecting increased value for technologies in the learning process, increases in effort and hours, and increased levels of preparation to teach their subjects well. Zahorchak said the Department of Education continually receives similarly positive feedback from educators and students who have benefited from Classrooms for the Future technology. An English teacher said students who were once on the verge of dropping out have become re-engaged and excited about learning. A high school senior said the use of computers and other technology "make the curriculum interesting, so you actually want to get your work done." "Classrooms for the Future involves so much more than just putting laptops in high schools," Zahorchak said. "It is really about engaging students, encouraging them to work harder and be more focused. That, in turn, produces better graduates who are ready for college, the workforce and other challenges and opportunities that lie ahead in their lives." Now in its second year, Classrooms for the Future will reach 358 high schools in 304 of the state's 501 school districts by the end of the 2007-08 school year. The state budget signed by Governor Edward G. Rendell last July allocated $90 million this fiscal year to provide 255 high schools with 83,000 laptop computers and related equipment. It also invested $11 million in high-quality professional development for Classrooms for the Future high schools. Those investments are in addition to the $20 million in equipment and $4 million in professional development allocated to 103 high schools by the state in 2006-07. For more information on Classrooms for the Future and other Rendell administration education initiatives, visit www.pde.state.pa.us. CONTACT: Michael Race (717) 783-9802
SOURCE Pennsylvania Department of Education
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