Report gives Tennessee schools 'C' in technology area

Associated Press • Apr 8, 2007 at 10:39 AM

CHATTANOOGA - Tennessee has done an average job of making computers available to students and implementing policies that ensure teachers can show them how to use the tools of the 21st century, according to a national report on technology in schools.

Education Week - a national education publication - released "Technology Counts 2007," which evaluated states on the ratio of computers to students, high-speed access, presence of state standards, having a virtual school and whether teachers and administrators are required to demonstrate competency in the licensing and relicensing process.

In Tennessee, the report showed educators are using the Internet, digital cameras, digital whiteboards and liquid crystal display projectors, yet "much evidence suggests that schools are a long way from leveraging technology's potential."

Tennessee Department of Education spokeswoman Rachel Woods said she was surprised that the state got a "C."

"Each Technology Counts (report) has a different focus," she said. "Last year they focused on data systems, and that is really important to us."

According to the recent report, Tennessee lost points in not testing students, teachers and administrators on technology standards. Without testing, there is no way to determine if standards are being met, the report stated.

However, Valerie Rutledge, a Tennessee Board of Education member and head of the University of Tennessee's education preparation school, said tests are not the only way to determine competency.

"UTC has embedded throughout its courses use of technology," Rutledge said. "The requirements indicate that a student has mastered certain (technology) skills, but would it show up as a separate grade? No."

Woods said state educators would like to require that teacher preparation programs include technology courses.

But "unfortunately we don't have the authority to require," she said.

Woods pointed out that Tennessee earned points for its virtual school, and a pilot program is being developed by Hamilton County educators.

"Hamilton County is very advanced," she said. "It's important to us that they stay up-to-date because they are working on our virtual school."

Despite Woods' praise, the Hamilton County Schools system is struggling to maintain its current levels of technology and keep up with improvements, said Wayne Starr, director of technology.

"If I could accomplish what needs to be accomplished for this system, I'd need $10 million a year," said Starr, noting that the department's budget this year is slightly more than $2 million.

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