News

Google donates $1 million to local schools

Even as California's primary and secondary schools are facing a best-case scenario of no funding increase next year, and a worst-case possibility of $2.4 billion in spending reductions, officials with the Mountain View Whisman School District found cause for celebration Thursday, June 14, as Google announced it would once again give $1 million to local elementary and middle schools.

The grant -- earmarked to support the implementation of a program known as "Explicit Direct Instruction," or EDI, and the introduction of high-tech teaching methods to help socioeconomically challenged students -- is the second $1 million donation the locally based search giant has awarded the district in as many years, and comes in response to the success of last year's grant, a Google official said.

"I was really blown away by the engagement of the teachers and the students," said Heather Spain, Google's manager of community affairs, referring to the time she spent touring MVWSD classes implementing the EDI method. "It seemed like a really successful program that we want to continue to support."

"We feel extremely fortunate," MVWSD Superintendent Craig Goldman said, referring to the grant -- the largest single contribution in district history. "As a district we're extremely fortunate to be at the hub of Silicon Valley."

Goldman said that when viewed in the context of his district's entire 2012-13 budget -- which he projected will be somewhere around $45 million -- Google's $1 million contribution may seem like a drop in the bucket. "But if not for that $1 million we would not be able to do what we're doing in terms of professional development, and we would not be able to make the changes that we are attempting to make in terms of instructional technology."

Last April, the Internet and mobile technology giant awarded its first $1 million grant to the district. A Google representative said the grant was the largest monetary contribution the company had ever given to a single school district.

The bulk of that money was used to set up the Explicit Direct Instruction program. The district paid DataWORKS, a Fowler, Calif.-based company, to teach MVWSD teachers the instructional system, which is designed to keep students engaged through a variety of methods -- including the use of individual white boards and peer-to-peer quick-study sessions -- while simultaneously allowing teachers to quickly identify those students who are having trouble with the material as well as those who have a grasp on concepts, so that they can spend time with those children who need extra help and let the faster kids move ahead. Efficiency is the name of the game with EDI.

Instructors from DataWORKS came to district schools and ran clinics for a small group of teachers over the summer before the 2011-12 school year. DataWORKS instructors were able to give the teachers immediate feedback as they learned the ins and outs of EDI while simultaneously teaching summer school classes. When the school year began, those teachers who had practiced the method over the summer showed what they had learned to their colleagues, and DataWORKS checked in periodically to critique teachers' technique.

This year, Goldman said, the district plans to use the money to establish a group of four dedicated EDI teachers by paying some faculty to work full time going from class to class to help improve the EDI skills of every teacher in the district -- making sure the system is being implemented properly and efficiently by providing real-time observation and feedback to colleagues and collborating to help teachers develop their EDI lessons and troubleshoot issues that arise in EDI lessons.

According to Google spokesman Jordan Newman, his company is especially appreciative of the EDI program's goal of teaching in the most efficient manner possible and the methodical nature through which the method achieves that goal.

"That kind of attention to detail is something that you see in Google's culture," Newman said. "I think the way that they (DataWORKS and MVWSD) have approached all of this is very very Google-y."

The grant will also be used to continue to explore ways in which the district can incorporate technology into the classroom, Goldman said. There is no word yet on exactly how that will pan out, but Spain said officials with her company were pleased to see the work some teachers at MVWSD schools were doing with the Mountain View-based producer of education software and YouTube tutorials, Kahn Academy.

Asked whether Google expected anything in return for its heavy investment in the district, Spain said her company is hoping to hire talented individuals from its own backyard in years to come, and that investing in local education is a surefire way of ensuring the company can do just that.

She also pointed out that while Google specified that the district use the money to bolster science, technology, engineering and math studies, the EDI program ultimately has proven useful in history, literature and language studies as well -- an assertion Goldman backs up and which the Voice observed in a tour of classrooms implementing EDI in March.

"We want to continue supporting our hometown schools," Spain said, "and ensure all students in Mountain View are getting a strong education."

Comments

 +   Like this comment
Posted by Arman Stiss
a resident of Cuernavaca
on Jun 14, 2012 at 12:42 pm

I've got some issues with Google, but not here. This is top notch stuff, Google, and the community appreciates it.
Thank You!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Divergent
a resident of another community
on Jun 14, 2012 at 1:05 pm

This is disappointing. I wonder what Heather Spain observed during the tour that "blew her away." EDI prevents teachers from allowing students to be creative, innovative, and divergent thinkers. The DataWorks folks will be the first to tell you that they're interested in efficiency, not student inquiry or creative problem solving. I am surprised that Google chose to support this, unless Google is now looking forward to hire employees who lack the experiences to think on their own. The Google founders had a much different educational experience (Montessori), in which they were encouraged to be "self motivated and question the rules and do things a little bit different" (barbara walter's interview). EDI does not allow for that type of learning experience - the teacher tells the student what to think and how to think. The student does not have the opportunity to question the method being taught and cannot propose something different. I guess Google will look elsewhere for the innovative and creative thinkers, and look to Mountain View for drones.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Heeeer we go
a resident of Castro City
on Jun 14, 2012 at 2:28 pm

Oh yes, the great debate over which teaching method works and which doesn't.
Generally the supporters of a method will sing its praise, and those who do not support it will paint it as certain doom for the students. In the 70's I recall a lot of criticism about Montessori method. They said children would lack fundamentals needed to succeed.
There is no one great method. There are no reasonable methods that will spell doom for students. Through 40 years of bickering about school teaching methods, the kids have been doing fine in most area schools regardless, as long as the core is in place. The $ will help regardless so thanks to Google


 +   Like this comment
Posted by @ Divergent
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jun 14, 2012 at 2:36 pm

I am afraid you don't know all there is to know about EDI. You may be taking one part of what DataWorks talks about and assuming too much.

The teachers can use EDI for certain instruction, but allow children to use creativity in other areas. For instance EDI works really great with math. Language Arts is an area that really lends itself to creativity. In addition, the teacher can use EDI to teach several ways to solve the same math problem.

EDI is just a tool to try to help the teacher keep the students attention - telling the students what the teacher expects them to learn before she/he starts teaching; calling on students at random so they all stay more engaged; using a white board to ensure all students have correct answers so that the teacher can break students into groups and re-teach only those students who need it.

EDI does not dictate what the teacher will teach.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by harvardmom
a resident of Monta Loma
on Jun 14, 2012 at 2:38 pm

As I write this from my drone cubicle in one of Silicon Valley's many high-tech companies, I am delighted that Google's million is going into education, especially when there's always a seemingly more important need for so many other services and causes. I love that the money is targeted to education and will impact the entire district. Students learn in a variety of ways, and this method is going to work well in some, perhaps many, maybe even most, cases. Google, thank you for continuing to make Mountain View the thriving, wonderful place it is! Thank you, thank you, thank you...you're the best!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Anthony
a resident of Monta Loma
on Jun 14, 2012 at 2:44 pm

It's great that Google is providing funding, but it's unfortunate that MVWSD chooses to spend it on EDI. Divergent's criticisms of EDI are accurate.

Every 4 or 5 years the MVWSD invests in a new program/approach. Each time it spends money and time training teachers, purchasing supplies, etc. The main beneficiaries seem to be the companies that sell the programs.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Bubb Mom
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Jun 14, 2012 at 3:05 pm

Dear Google,

Thank you very much, it is very generous and kind of you to support our kids in whatever way you like. I remember when your group came out for field day, we had great fun.

Thanks,
Bubb Mom


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Dave
a resident of Gemello
on Jun 14, 2012 at 3:24 pm

I agree with Divergent. This is money squandered on rote response and mimicking techniques designed to "get test scores up". What a joke. It's just another flavor of the month.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by @@Divergent
a resident of Rex Manor
on Jun 14, 2012 at 3:27 pm

"EDI does not dictate what the teacher will teach."

No, the district office does. And holds teachers' feet to the fire to use EDI. The best and the brightest students (and teachers) lose out in the end.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Greg David
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jun 15, 2012 at 11:17 am

Regardless of whatever teaching method is best, by Google requiring the money to be used for EDI, the students are guinea pigs in Google's grand experiment and the administrators ashamed for accepting the grant with these conditions. Will anyone ever stand up to Google and say no? They're like a spoiled child sometimes.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by James
a resident of Whisman Station
on Jun 15, 2012 at 1:44 pm


If EDI brings basic and below basic up a notch or two then I think it's great. Proficient and advanced students get differentiated instruction for their level already. I look forward to seeing what effect EDI has when the results are published. I kind of doubt they will keep it if it's ineffective. I also look forward to see what effect Kahn Academy has since it's been translated into Spanish, which was lacking in Stanford's EPGY Math.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Hardin
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Jun 15, 2012 at 3:52 pm

To even have the opportunity and availability of $1M to be spent on pursuing the use of EDI is a blessing and something most cities won't ever have a chance to benefit from.

There is no substantive data that suggests any one educational approach is the end all or be all for all children in all situations. Having more tools in the toolbox, and developing a cultural attitude where business can contribute to the cities they operate in is beneficial for this region, in the long term, for all parties involved.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Google_mom
a resident of Whisman Station
on Jun 16, 2012 at 11:47 pm

As someone who is very familiar with the Google philosophy on childcare, education, and development, the fact that Google chose to support the EDI approach and is impressed by it, is mind boggling. Google favors creativity and critical thinking. EDI is a program for mindless repetition and monotony. I would like to know what other factors prompted this generous donation and what the strings that are attached are tied to. Something doesn't add up, BIG TIME


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Jess Smile-anod
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Jun 17, 2012 at 6:18 am

Google-mom's post is hilarious. She cannot wrap her brain around the possibility that she is actually wrong, so in her mind, "Something doesn't ad up"
Go ferret out all the corruption Google_mom, its gotta be something other than your opinion being incorrect. We'll be here enjoying the weather on Rational Island while you do.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Yawn
a resident of Blossom Valley
on Jun 17, 2012 at 7:34 am

I agree with Google-mom.

Here you've got one company giving the school district money that's given to another company that's sellin' EDI--the flavor of the month (like CI two years ago) for the school district administrators buckin' for a bullet on their evaluations that will bring them higher pay.

In between the teachers and the students are being run over. Another one million down the drain just to focus on the lowest end of the school district.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Frank Noschese
a resident of another community
on Jun 17, 2012 at 7:37 pm

Here are two videos of EDI in action in math classes:

"Importance" Web Link& sciId=4096

"Learning Objectives" Web Link? v=SXwh0A3YP5s

There are some good tools here (whiteboards, P2P discussion), but the CONTEXT in which they are used disturbs me.

What is EDI? (from Dataworks, the company who will train the teachers): Web Link (notice the lack of inquiry in EDI)


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Frank Noschese
a resident of another community
on Jun 17, 2012 at 7:52 pm

Let's try again with the links from my previous comment...

2 Videos of EDI in action in math:

"Importance" Web Link

"Objectives" Web Link

In contrast, here are 2 videos that show a more inquiry-based approach to math:

"Math Curriculum Makeover" Web Link

"Math Questioning" Web Link


 +   Like this comment
Posted by NEd
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jun 18, 2012 at 2:52 am

EDI is designed to do nothing more than get the test scores up for lower income struggling students, in this case of this district, poor Latino kids, many undocumented or from undocumented parents, otherwise no has illegal. At least Google is helping to pay the bill this time around.


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