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School system receives grant for AP students

A federal stimulus grant worth $190,000 has been awarded to the Dougherty County School System to add classroom handheld technology at Albany, Monroe and Westover high schools.

The Georgia Engaging AP Students Through Mobile Handheld Computing grant will be the first chance the teachers at the three schools will be able to integrate iPod and net book technology into the College Board's Advanced Placement curriculum.

The grant also supplies training for technical support staff and teachers that will be involved in the project. Besides high school staff, Albany State University Educational Technology Center and DCSS system level technology personnel will be part of a team that will enable the use of the technology.

AP students at the schools will receive 80 headsets with built-in microphones, 40 iPod Touch devices, 40 net book computers, a Web-enabled student response system application to run on each of the devices, two handheld charging carts and six MacBook Pro laptops.

The grant also provides a server to support a minimum of 80 students and their work.

The grant is the first time Apple computers, servers and iPods will be supported by the Dougherty County School System-level technology department.

One of the best attributes of the grant is the fact that it's aimed to improve the quality of AP courses as they are measured by AP exam scores. This is particularly important since 405 of 576 students in the school system recorded the lowest score of 1 on a 5-point scale and another 101 registered just a 2 on their AP tests in 2009.

The trend of scoring low on AP tests isn't a new one for Dougherty County students. Since 2001, at least 77 percent of students that took AP tests scored only 1s or 2s. In the last three years, 84.3 percent, 88.4 percent and 87.8 percent, respectively, of students that took the tests earned 1s or 2s.

Advancement Placement courses should have some of the school system's brightest minds, both in students and teachers. The enrollment of AP students is one thing school systems are quick to tout. However, large numbers are irrelevant if the students don't back up the expenses and smaller class sizes with good results.

Retired Gwinnett County administrator Linda Mitchell, the board's consultant at its two-day fall retreat, said that the school system should have a goal of 70 percent of its students scoring either a 3, 4 or 5 on the AP tests. If this federal grant can improve Dougherty County's current poor AP test numbers, it will clearly be money well spent.

COSMETOLOGY COMING

At the Instructional Services Accountability Committee meeting recently, it was announced that a cosmetology program would be offered in the future to Dougherty County School System students.

Pat Jackson, the system's director of the Career Technical Agriculture Education program, said students at Dougherty's alternative school, South Georgia Regional Achievement Center, in the school's Performance Learning Center would get top priority for enrolling in the cosmetology program. The program would be housed at Dougherty Comprehensive High School because it already has a lot of the needed facilities for the program.

"I strongly believe and support this," at-large board member Anita Williams-Brown said at the meeting. "I think this will help the dropout rate and helps kids to want to stay in school."

Added board member Velvet Riggins: "Most of these kids are already doing things like this so this will help them stay engaged."

Jackson recently surveyed 293 middle school students about the program since they would be the ones taking the classes in the future. She said 40 percent of the respondents were interested in the program.

Offering cosmetology is a no-brainer and simply is a great idea. It's wonderful to see school administrators and board members coming together to think outside-the-box for the betterment of not only students, but also our community.

SUPERINTENDENT INTEREST

The wait is almost over. By no later than Tuesday, Dougherty County Board of Education Chairman David Maschke will know how many applications the superintendent position has garnered.

Eight-year Superintendent Sally Whatley announced her retirement in late August. Whatley will remain on the job until the school board replaces her.

Georgia School Boards Association Consultant Bill Sampson, who is conducting the national search for the board, told Maschke that the DCSS superintendent position attracted 14 applications after first two weeks. He also noted that most of applications would arrive on or near last Tuesday's deadline.

Maschke has asked Sampson to break down several areas of the applications when he releases the information to him. Maschke is requesting how many applications he received, the level of degrees applicants have acquired and where applicants are geographically located. He also is seeking how many nominations were made and how many of those nominated applied.

Maschke is also interested in learning the final tally of how many people responded to the superintendent online survey. As of Nov. 9, 574 had filled an online survey and 15 surveys were mailed in.

Please send suggestions for this column by contacting me either by phone at (229) 888-9355 or via e-mail at ethan.fowler@albanyherald.com.