“One of the most difficult things to do is to connect what is going on in SES back to what the teacher is trying to do in the classroom … in a way that benefits the teacher,” he said. “Something that tells the teachers, ‘This is what a student is working on,’ this is where they need help.”
The project will aim to create new SES materials in reading and math, adapt existing SES materials for delivery by mobile technologies, and develop an online assessment system to help gauge student performance in SES programs.
The grant also provides funding for a study, conducted by an independent research and evaluation firm, to assess the effectiveness of various pedagogical approaches in boosting the achievement of SES students.
As new SES materials are piloted and found to be effective, Catapult says it plans to deploy the innovations in participating school districts nationwide. Currently, Cohen said, his company’s tutoring services reach more than 30,000 students across 20 states.
Though the program is still in the early stages, Doug Garman, superintendent of the Wood County Educational Service Center in Bowling Green, Ohio, says he’s eager to see what opportunities these innovations might hold for students under his supervision.
A lot of students, according to Garman, have the ability to improve. The real problem, especially in rural areas, is that they just don’t have the access.
But with new innovations, “families now have access to what their children are doing,” he said. When you get that kind of involvement from the community, the excitement it generates around learning “is contagious,” he added. “The students who go through the process get excited about it.”
Garman said he expects the five-year pilot to reach about 500 students in the service center’s jurisdiction, which covers a rural swath of nine school districts in the region. Though he isn’t sure yet what types of applications will evolve from the pilot, Garman says he’s willing to try anything that might “empower students,” and especially those who for years have been at a disadvantage compared with their counterparts in more affluent districts.
Technology can help open doors previously closed to students in remote communities, he said, whether it be a simple matter of geography, the price of transportation, or the effectiveness of the actual remediation.
“One of the really nice outcomes so far has been the excitement of students and families,” said Garman, who added, “There is a real excitement on the part of administrators, too.” To achieve the grant objectives, Catapult will spend at least $14.7 million, $9.46 million of which will be reimbursed by ED as part of the grant. The grant is funded through Sept. 30, 2010.
U.S. Department of Education
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