Sunday, August 9, 2009

Crescent and Guthrie School Districts Applying Best Practices

One of my recent tasks has been to participate in discussions with state agency officials and other groups who have an interest in upcoming government modernization efforts. These discussions focus on issues such as using technology to streamline and reduce the cost of government operations and in doing so to increase the opportunities for more aggressive government transparency. As part of the interview, I am very attuned to finding best-practice examples from government entities that can be expanded and applied universally. What may have saved money in one area can sometimes be implemented in others.

It is always an enjoyable turn of events when, as part of the search for these best-practice case-in-point examples, the discussion focuses on local government groups back home who are doing a good job.

Recently, in talking to the State Superintendent of Education about school districts who are using technology in an innovative manner, we discussed the example being put forth by the Crescent school system and their implementation of the server-based curriculum known as Acellus.

Acellus allows Crescent High School students to complete their math curriculum via the internet. Acellus provides high-quality video lectures to students, identifies specific areas of student difficulty, provides an alternative learning path which can be customized to each student’s learning experience and captures student data so that the overall effectiveness of the course can be assessed. The program frees up teachers to spend one-on-one time with students requiring special attention.

In essence, the program adds much needed flexibility to the public education experience. No longer are students forced to work at a generalized pace that either leaves them frustrated at being held back or too far behind to ever catch up. This removes the one-size-fits all approach which has been one of the more challenging flaws of the government-run education system that has played havoc with students' ability to learn. Can you imagine being a teacher who has to teach to a classroom of over 20 different students, each of which has his/her own unique strengths and weaknesses? Technology is allowing forward-thinking school districts such as Crescent to remove some of these barriers and allows us to point to their achievement as a best-practice that others can follow.

A second exciting revelation came about last week in a meeting with the group Oklahomans For Responsible Government (OFRG). OFRG has been working on a massive, state-wide study of each school district's transparency on the web policies and will be presenting that study at a meeting of the Government Modernization Committee later this year. They are checking for ten items that each school district should have available on their web site in order to better enable the people to hold the district accountable.

Their findings have not been encouraging. They have found that school districts are not using technology to allow for significantly greater transparency. However, OFRG informed me that out of the more than 530 school districts they are analyzing, that the highest ranking district to date, with 9 out of 10 benchmarks met, is the Guthrie school system.

I appreciate the commitment of these two organizations to using technology to provide a higher quality of service and to aid in the very important concept of transparency to the people.

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