Accessing data about Macon County schools is about to become a whole lot easier for teachers and administrators of the school system.
At Monday’s meeting of the Board of Education, technology director Tim Burrell presented a powerful new program that that will allow users to access, compare and correlate a vast amount of data.
The TetraData system developed by Follett Software Company is marketed as “a robust suite of educational data analysis, management and vision alignment tools designed to help K- 12 districts drive systemic change.” The system will bring together information from a variety of sources, including test scores, course grades, predictive assessments, discipline, mobility, demographic data and other quantitative data maintained by the district.
“It’s a really powerful tool,” said Burrell. “This brings it all into one area – from NCWise, disciplinary records, test scores, etc. – into one program that you can look at all the data in.”
The system will allow users to easily store, continuously update, view, compare and evaluate school data from the many and varied data repositories.
According to Burrell, the technology team has been working on the set up for the program for nearly 14 months. “Our goal is to have upto- the-minute data available for teachers and administrators at their fingertips without having to call the central office and wait a day or more to dig out the information from past years,” he explained.
Burrell demonstrated the main features of the system, which is already up and running, to the board members. The three main sections – the visual “Dashboard,” the “Analyzer” and the “Reports” – each offer different tools.
Principals and administrative staff are currently being trained in the use of the system, Burrell told the board. Teacher trainers have already been trained in preparation for introduction of the system to all teachers in the summer and fall. The program will not be accessible by the public, as it stores confidential student information.
Blended funding has been used for the program, including state technology funds as well as local funding.
Elementary Meal Price Change
The regular price for elementary school lunch (K-4) will go up next year from $2 to $2.10.
Macon County School Nutrition Director Sherry Held says that a new federal mandate to the National School Lunch Program, which funds free and reduced school lunches as well as reimbursements for paid lunches, means school districts need to move their paid prices up to match the reimbursement which schools receive for free lunches.
To reach this goal, districts are advised to incrementally increase prices by 10 cents each year. It will take several years for Macon County to reach the final goal, said Held.
Currently, high school meal prices are set at $2.25. These will not change until the elementary lunch prices are caught up. Eventually, the whole district will be moved up to the free reimbursement rate, which is currently $2.74 (paid lunches at $2.46 would be in compliance with the federal mandate).
Held noted that while there has been no increase in the school lunch price in three years, there have been significant increases in costs. “We probably would be coming with a meal price increase anyhow,” she said.
Held also asked the board to approve offering free breakfasts to kindergarten students at Highlands School next year. She said that despite the fact that the school still is not eligible for funding for the Free Breakfast Program, she hopes to extend the same service to Highlands which is offered to all other kindergarden students in the county. She said that the cost of the service will be minimal and will be covered by the free and reduced lunch funds at the school. The board unanimously approved her request.
MVI designing interdisciplinary classes
Academically Gifted teachers at Mountain View Intermediate School are in the process of developing progressive AG class for fifth and sixth graders.
The course seeks to provide direct instruction using a thematic approach in a flexible class setting that allows for guided, individualized learning. The interdisciplinary approach will fuse technology, science, social studies, language arts and fine arts in project-based work that encourages collaboration, creativity and curiosity.
“It’s another option for our students, particularly at this age where we feel like they need some options,” said Betty Baker, AG teacher and lead developer of the course. “It gives them more personal responsibility for their own learning and allows them to determine to some extent what they want to learn.”
Besides the interdisciplinary, project-based approach, the program will also be technology intensive, Baker explained on Monday. The school is currently looking into grants which could help provide laptops, iPads and other tools for the program. Otherwise, the program will incur no extra cost to the district and will require no additional teachers.
There will be two classes – one 5th grade and one 6th grade – with 20 to 25 students in each class, Baker said. Participation in the program will be voluntary and opened up first to the 35 to 40 identified AIG (Academically and Intellectually Gifted) students in the county. However, any 5th or 6th grade student in the county may apply for the program.
The program will first look at teacher recommendations for students who are goal-oriented, independent learners. Grades, test achievement, student writing samples and parent recommendations will also be used to select participants, who should demonstrate creativity, curiosity, the ability to work in cooperative groups, a love of learning and a passion to study a topic in depth.
Baker explained that advanced classes will still be available for AIG students and others who prefer to remain in traditionally structured learning environments.
Baker said that she and others from Macon County recently observed a school in Hall County, Ga., which has developed a similar program for minimal costs. “It was just amazing,” said Held, of the program’s success and its ability to generate strong community and parent involvement.
MVI Principal Mark Sutton, who also attended Monday’s meeting, told the board that he believes the program could have far-reaching implications for the school. “It could have a positive impact on every teacher in our school,” he said. “The projectbased learning ... that will take place could actually have a trickledown effect to all the teachers within the school.”