By Betsy Dolan
Just two weeks after the Fort Bend ISD Board of Trustees called district students “digital natives in a digital age” as a reason to approve the $18.2 million dollar iACHIEVE initiative, a group of those “digital natives” is speaking out against the plan that would give iPads to students in grades 2 – 8 to help boost science scores district wide.
The student group from Clements High School, led by senior, Steven Kung, know they have an uphill battle ahead. Yet the group says they are serious about asking the board to reconsider or at least amend the approved plan. They have taken their cause to Facebook, they have their own web site and have organized an on-line petition drive hoping to drum up enough signatures to get the attention of the Trustees and Fort Bend ISD Superintendent Timothy Jenney. The students also want to get more parents involved, are hoping to rally support from other high schools in the district and already have the support of the Austin High School Student Council.
“We’re not trying to tell the district what to do.” said Kung. “Our main point as a student movement is to drive home the point that the district can throw schools all kinds of money but nothing will boost test scores unless kids are willing to do the work and that can’t happen unless parents play more of a role. The missing component here isn’t technology, it’s parents.”
The iACHIEVE plan is slated to begin at Ridgegate and Ridgemont Elementary Schools in March and at McAuliffe Middle School in April. Following an evaluation of the pilot and any adjustments to the program, iACHIEVE will be offered to 12 voluntary schools, second grade to eighth grade, beginning with the 2012-2013 school year. The following school year the program will be added to the remaining 47 schools. Reallocated bonds, a $6 million dollar technology grant, and $1 million dollars from the George Foundation will fund the project.
The Clements group says more than anything, they would like to see the $18.2 million go toward upgrading existing technology throughout the district, repairing broken science and electronic equipment and making structural repairs to schools, like the leaking roof at Clements that is currently covered, students say, with noisy tarps. The students cite concerns about spending such a large amount of money on iPads whose benefits have been proven in math but not in a hands-on subject like science and that the district will spend far more than it has budgeted replacing iPads that have been broken, lost or stolen.
“Just wait until the criminals figure out that just about every kid in the district is carrying an iPad in their backpack”, said Rakshith Saligram.
The Clements student group says their petition urges the Board of Trustees to put the $18.2 million “toward something that works instead of into a program that may not work”. Students hope to mail their petition to the Fort Bend ISD Administration building on March 11.