Craig Goldman, superintendent of the Mountain View Whisman School District, said about 125 more students are enrolled this year than in the previous year and that 40 new teachers have been brought on — both to handle the influx of kids and to replace retirees.
There are new administrators as well, Goldman said. Three schools have new principals, one has a new assistant principal, and the district's main office has a few newcomers. These new top officials represent a mixture of outside and inside hires.
Many students will be given access to new learning tools, such as tablet computers running online tutorial programs like the locally based Khan Academy and a math software suite called ST Math, which uses symbols, shapes and spatial techniques to teach math without using language.
"It's fantastic, particularly for low-income kids, and kids who are English learners," Goldman said of ST Math.
For many students, this marks the second full year of learning under the Explicit Direct Instruction system. The expansion and solidification of EDI, as well as the introduction of more in-class technology, has been made possible in large part by Google, Goldman said. "We're extremely pleased that Google has approved a second year of grant funding to support mathematics achievement for socioeconomically disadvantaged students."
The money from Mountain View-based Google has allowed the district to purchase enough licenses for ST Math that the program can be used at every school in the district.
Another large grant from French telecommunications company Alcatel-Lucent has allowed Theuerkauf to purchase a cart full of tablet computers, which will run programs like ST Math and Khan Academy, Goldman said, and the district's educational foundation is working to raise enough money so that other district schools might also get a tablet cart.
"The vision, with respect to ST Math and Khan, is that all schools will have access to the programs, all schools will have access to the training to use the programs successfully, and all schools will have access to the hardware to be able to use the programs — not only in the computer lab but in the classroom as well," Goldman said.
Beyond that, he hopes more and more kids will be able to start using these types of programs at home.
Goldman said the district is doing well financially. "The district expects to have a positive ending balance for 2012-13, and does not expect to implement furloughs or reductions in programs," he said, adding one caveat: he is concerned about the "long term impact of fiscal insecurity on the district if the governor's tax package is not passed in November."
Goldman is particularly enthusiastic about continuing to solidify the EDI program at district schools. He said the method of instruction provides direct feedback to teachers and ensures that students of different levels of ability are able to work together without having to speed up or slow down too much to accommodate others in the class. "We're dedicated, as a district, to focusing on the implementation of EDI over the next 10 years," he said.
That's why five of the district's best EDI teachers will be put on special assignment this year. They will be free from teaching a class and instead will be going into the classrooms of other teachers to observe and provide instant, real-time feedback on what their colleagues are doing well and points where they might improve. "This coaching model is a great way to go, because it removes concerns about evaluation from the process and focuses on ensuring that both students and teachers are successful,"Goldman said.