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to grapple awkwardly with an alien technology, critics say. The school board only last week directed the administrative staff to draft such a policy.
Teachers say they lack adequate computer training. They complain that often they don't know who to turn to for repairs when a computer breaks down or is missing essential programs. And they feel frustrated by what appears to be a hit-or-miss approach. Consider these examples:
Student interest in computers ran so high at Glades Junior High that pupils had to draw straws for 30 seats in its introductory computer class for ninth-graders. About 200 students were turned away because the school only had five working computers. Yet four more computers have sat unused for a month because they arrived without video screens.
The librarian at Vineland Elementary proudly told a reporter that the school's single computer get almost constant use—then conceded it had been out of order for the past several weeks while she tried “to find out who the school board contracts with” for repair work.
Seventeen computers at Treasure Island Elementary, purchased mostly through community donations, have been used for little more than game-playing because most of the "software"—the instructions that make a computer work-hasn't arrived for months after it was ordered.
Shenandoah Elementary principal Judy Richardson said she bought nine computers last summer with money that usually would have paid for paper supplies and other items. But so far, the computers have been mostly tied up in training teachers, not students.
Coral Reef Elementary's only computer is used by fewer than 40 of the school's 760 students. Only teachers Valerie Swanson knows how to use it, so it was placed in her classroom, where only her students have access to it. “Instead of putting it in the library, as in most schools, where they're not being used, the principal put it in my class,” explained Swanson. “Now, at least 39 or 40 kids are getting to use it."
Ethel Teisch, the media specialist in charge of computer education at Shenandoah Elementary, faults the school board and school administrators for not developing an orderly, organized program and seeing that teachers were adequately trained.
"It's like giving birth to the baby without having given a thought to buying diapers or a crib," Teisch said.
School board chairman Holmes Braddock concedes that point.
"Obviously, it makes no sense to have teachers and principals operating without knowing what they're doing,” Braddock said. “We need a policy that addresses questions of money and training. We need to know what to spend the money on and who gets trained.
"The problem is no one knows what 'computer literacy' means. We need a policy, but developing one is not so easy. It's like describing what a ghost looks like.'
Just how many microcomputers are in Dade public schools today is anybody's guess, school officials say.
Besides the purchases by the system's central office, individual schools continue to buy more computers on their own, through fundraisers and donations from Parent Teacher Associations and by principals diverting money at their disposal for other uses such as supplies and equipment. An accurate inventory of all the equipment spread through the school system is not available, officials say.
The first time around, officials say, the bulk purchase price was too good to pass up until teachers could be trained and a countywide policy developed.
Nearly two years later, however, the computers the school board rushed to buy for $680 each are selling for under $600. And principals and teachers around the county are still trying to figure out on their own how to use them most effectively.
"The problem was, and still is,” said Shenandoah's Teisch, “they're here and teachers do not know how to use them. The children know more than we do. To them, they're just an extension of the TV. But next year, we'll really have a program going.”
Shenandoah expects to receive at least seven more computers next year-part of that $5.5 million purchase that will put more computers into schools with large numbers of children from low-income families. Teisch's biggest concern, however, is that not enough money will be spent on training.
“For every dollar spent buying computers,” she insisted, "a dollar has to be spent training the personnel to use them. This year we had nine computers dropped into our laps, and it was only through our own persistence that our teachers are getting the training
Teisch expresses another frequently heard concern: "We asked the vendor to show us how to use them, and they sent a real nice guy who simply had no way of ex
plaining it to us. This is happening all over the county. He wasn't a teacher. He knew what he was talking about. His hands were moving all over the place. But when we ask for help, we need somebody capable of teaching.”
Almost everywhere in the county, the sheer numbers of students overwhelm the sparse equipment available in most schools-most elementaries have only one instructional computer for the entire student body.
But extra computers would cause another problem: who would help the youngsters use them? Most schools have had to cope without additional aides or teachers to relieve class size and help prepare lessons plans.
Blue Lakes Elementary librarian Ann Gillott says few of her school's teachers are able to take advantage of the one computer now in the library, since only a few children can use it at a time. Most of the time now spent on the computer is by children whose classrooms are connected by sliding doors to the library and media center.
"What do you do with 25 kids when you take five to the library?” she asked. “But the kids are dying to use it. They'll come in and ask, “When is my class coming
Gillott believes the school could use several more computers, including at least one on wheels that could be moved from classroom to classroom.
Another partial solution, Gillott suggests, is to encourage more parents to volunteer to work in the schools, especially with the new computer equipment.
"If I could teach the volunteer parents to load the computer, they could supervise the children and assist them" she said.
Something like that is happening-with mixed results—at Coral Way Elementary, where volunteer Luis Sanchez Fuentes assists small groups of children as they play educational games on the school's single computer, housed in the library.
Sanchez, who is also a paid worker in Coral Way's after-school program, spends several hours each day coaching children in the most basic use of the computerplaying games designed to hold their attention while helping them improve their skills in math and spelling.
But even that limited activity stops on those days when Sanchez can't come in, and the computer sits idle, as it did for several days recently when he was ill. The dozen teachers at the school who took an introductory course in use of computers can't spare the time away from their classroom to work with the equipment, nor does the school yet have an organized plan for its use, said principal Magali Acosta.
“This is more or less new to us,” she said of the computer that has now been in the school for 15 months.
"We want to try it slowly but surely,” she added. “We don't have official lists of children who use it. We're just getting the kids' feet wet.. We want to buy more computers, and have trained teachers use them and incorporate them into the regular classes.
Glades Junior High math teacher Paul Padgett says he's concerned the county has no adequate plan for students to continue using their newly-learned skills, while their interest is high
“I've designed a course to give hands-on experience to as many kids as possible," said Padgett, who has been working with computers for nearly 10 years, and is the only instructor at his school using omputers. A few others are taking courses on their own.
But after his students graduate to Southwest or Killian High, they may not touch a computer again in the classroom until two years later, when they get into the 12th grade, Padgett said.
Conversely, those students coming into the 7th grade at Glades with some elementary school experience with computers probably won't use them again in school unless the 9th grade, until they're able to get into Padgett's after-school club.
"I personally believe there should have been more time to train teachers, buy more equipment and set up a countywide program,” Padgett said. "We all jumped in feet first. The county dumped this on the schools and said, 'Do what you want.
This year, Padgett is teaching two computer classes a day 15 students a class, three students to each of the five working computers. Over two semesters, 60 students will have gone through the course. Next year, the school should have 11 computers in use, and principal Thomas Zelenak plans to have Padget teaching five computer classes a day. That means 330 students-five times as many as this yearwill get some computer education.
And what of Padgett's concern about so many students—from just this one junior high-entering the 10th grade eagerly looking for more computer courses?
“He's at least partially correct.” said Killian principal Anthony Pariso. “I expect we'll have to do what we do with any course with a high demand. We'll give priority to the seniors and then the juniors, and any room left over will go to the sophomores.”
Very few 10th graders, Pariso says, will get to use Killian's 15 computers. The school, he said, could use three times as many.
“The awkward part is there's a lot of interest,” he said. “All of us in education know it's coming. But it's extremely expensive. To deal with that many kids, you almost need a lab situation, and a computer lab could cost $50,000. It's not like some other course, where it's just a matter of a $20 textbook. I would add two or three more computer labs immediately if I could.”
The demand next year should be even greater, Pariso added.
"Most of the kids in high school today have grown up with hand calculators and video games,” he said. “A lot of them have computers at home. They're astute enough to know it's the thing of the future. I've got a 7- and 10-year-old, and they want one."
The school system's computer supervisor also knows personally about the frustration of youngsters chafing for the chance to get their hands on a computer.
“I have two children at Glades, in the seventh and ninth grade, and they were unable to take the course,” said Gary Forrester, appointed last month to head the school system's computer education efforts.
"I'm sad about it," Forrester said, “But I understand that the schools are desperately trying to be fair."
Criticism of Dade's efforts to date echo concerns expressed around the country, Forrester said, as school systems everywhere are feeling their way into a new era.
A case in point is the announcement last month that Hialeah-Miami Lakes High placed first among 350 schools across the country in data processing competition, based on composite scores of five tests administered since October.
It probably says something about Dade's program that only one of the country's 25 high schools entered the competition, Forrester admits. But he says he also had to wonder why no more than 350 schools in the entire country participated.
“Of our 25 senior highs, four or five could have participated and come up with commendable scores,” he said. “And we certainly hope to increase that next year to 50 per cent or more of our high schools."
Forrester said he knew of no Dade elementary school offhand that could compete in national competition, “but some individual students could enter.”
If Dade isn't unique, the problems with computers are, he says.
“Other course curriculum has been developed over hundreds of years,” Forrester said. “When a teacher is determined to be deficient in their particular field, we can rightly require remediation. Computer education has struck us in recent years as being a very important topic for instruction. The teacher who is not fully literate in computer education can not be deemed deficient in their area of instruction.
"However, if we're responsible for their instruction, it becomes mandatory they become proficient with computers. Now our job becomes one of attempting to train over night literally thousands of teachers-a task that is virtually impossible."
The school system has held perhaps 150 computer workshops for educators, Forrester said.
“Those are the courses that need to be looked at and evaluated, to see if we're doing what is expected of us,” he said.
At least the workshops have exposed educators to the new technology, and have increased their enthusiasm to learn more, Forrester said.
“But we're not able to reach everyone to make them enthusiastic,” he added.
Most of the colleges and universities in Dade offer computer training courses for teachers. The school system can't dicitate the course content but works closely with the schools, Forrester said.
Neither does the system require that teachers take such courses, he said. When resources are limited, attentin must be given to those tachers and principals who are already motivated, Forrester said. As more become convinced of the importance of computer education, more will be motivated to seek out training, he said.
Some of the problems teachers and principals have experienced stem from the school board's haste in acquiring large numbers of computers two years ago, Forrester said.
At that time, the focus was on acquisition. The school board appointed a steering committee to review proposals from various computer equipment firms. The committee voted to award a contract to Atari, despite learning that the company lacked the variety of educational software available from other companies.
Miami Beach High teacher Milton Zoloth, who served on the committee, said he was opposed to giving the contract to Atari because of its software shortage. Zoloth said he went along with the committee majority when Atari representatives promised that cartridges to teach programing would be developed. Two years later, they still are not available, Zoloth said.
Forrester, also a member of the committee, said the goal then was to get as much equipment for the money as possible. Suitable software programs were only a secondary coinsideration, he said, as was training.
This time under Forrester's direction, the school board is taking a different approach. Available software was evaluated for one week by teachers and principals, and the decision next month to spend $5.5 million will be based on buying the equipment that is compatible with the best instructional programs, he said.
And this time around, Forrester said, vendors will be required to provide training for teachers—something that was not required before.
KIDS CAN HEAR AND SEE MUSIC WITH COMPUTER
Music teacher Jerome Siegel lugs his own microcomputer off to Blue Lakes Elementary each morning and back home with him each afternoon.
"With the computer,” Siegel said, "the children are using many more senses. They see the music and hear it and watch it change colors as the notes change.'
Most importantly, he says, the computer makes it that much easier to capture and hold a class's attention.
“If the kids are interested,” he said, “that's half the battle.”
Siegel usually gets to school an hour before first period, and is joined in the music room by a dozen or so children who come in to play games on the computer.
“I have musical instruments scattered around the room.” he said. "When they're not using the computer they pick an instrument, and wind up getting extra musical training before school.”
"I'm here for the kids to learn,” he said. "I prefer to use my own equipment. I'm an electronics freak. This is my hobby. For me it's a great feeling to type away on this little piece of nuts and bolts and make beautiful music."
Siegel writes his own computer programs because of a lack of commerical tapes and discs suitable for his young charges.
“Once I start writing a program, I know the evening is shot,” he said. “I'll be at it until 2 in the morning.'
CHESTER W. PAROWSKI
THOMAS J. O'BRIEN, JR.
PAUL J. LEYDEN
& Rubber Company Akron
GERALD L. NORDSTROM
DANIEL G. OSBORN
Dear Chairman Packwood:
Tax Executives Institute, Inc. submits this statement for inclusion in the record of the Subcommittee's May 27, 1983, hearing on certain miscellaneous tax bills, including s. 738 and s. 654. (S. 654 was originally scheduled to be considered during the May 27 hearing, but has since been rescheduled for consideration at a hearing on June 17; we request that the relevant part of this statement be associated with the record of that hearing.) s. 738 would make permanent the credit for increasing research activities (section 44F of the Internal Revenue Code of 1954, as amended), and s. 654 would provide that for purposes of section 861(b) and section 862(b) of the Code all amounts allowable as a deduction for research and experimental expenditures (within the meaning of section 174 of the Code) attributable to activities conducted within the United States are to be allocated to sources within the United States. Tax Executives Institute heartily endorses both bills and urges their prompt and favorable consideration by the Subcommittee.
JAMES C. PEIRANO
L. WAYNE FARRELL
JOSEPH C. DONOHUE
WILLIAM L. LYNCH
Tax Executives Institute (TEI) is a voluntary, nonprofit association of corporate and other business executives, managers, and administrators who are responsible for the tax affairs of their employers.
EDWARD A. SPRAGUE