Pennsylvania: Working in Education in Pennsylvania

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Innovations in Educational Technology Affect Curriculum and Instruction in Pennsylvania

Over 540 high schools in Pennsylvania have transformed the way teachers teach and students learn through the Classrooms for the Future (CFF) initiative. CFF equips every English, math, social studies, and science classroom in participating schools with a suite of equipment that includes an interactive whiteboard, printer, scanner, speakers, webcam, laptop for the teacher, and a cart of laptops for students. A coach helps improve teaching and learning and eases the transition into technology integration. Teachers who participate in CFF must take a partly online and partly on-site course on learning and teaching each year. CFF helps change high school instruction from lectures and drills to project-based learning. As one Pennsylvania science teacher put it, "The technology isn't going to make education better. The technology will allow our teaching to change."

The director of educational technology for the School District of Philadelphia introduced curriculum developers to Google Lit Trips, which combines place-based literature study with Google Earth satellite technology. For example, using the Lit Trip for John Steinbeck's novel The Grapes of Wrath brought up video clips and other imagery about the dust bowl era, which is the setting and subject of the novel. Learning activities such as Google Lit Trips get education technology experts and curriculum specialists working together.

Teacher's Aides

The Pennsylvania Training and Technical Assistance Network (PATTAN) offers in-service training to help special education paraprofessionals reach and maintain qualified status in accordance with state regulations. Among other offerings, PATTAN courses help paraeducators earn a Pennsylvania Special Education Paraeducator Credential of Competency from the Pennsylvania Bureau of Special Education. These and other online courses offer paraeducators training to help them achieve the skills and knowledge required by the Standards of the Special Education Paraprofessional.

Educational Managers

According to the results of a study of school innovation conducted by the U.S. Chambers of Commerce and the Center for American Progress, Pennsylvania does an excellent job of removing teachers who perform poorly from the classroom. Sixty-one percent of principals reported that tenure makes it harder to remove poor-performing teachers, well below the nationwide average of 72 percent. The study also found that Pennsylvania does an average job managing its schools in a way that encourages innovation.

The National Association of Secondary School Principals named Franklin Towne Charter High School in Philadelphia a 2010 Breakthrough School. This school serves local students who want a non-traditional education that provides a strong academic foundation and encourages participation in extracurricular activities. Since 2006, when administrators, parents, staff, and community members led a change in direction and focus, Franklin Towne Charter High School has moved from being one of the lowest-performing schools in Philadelphia to one of the highest-achieving schools in Pennsylvania. The Breakthrough School designation, which carries a $5,000 grant to each of the ten honored schools, recognizes schools that serve youth who live in poverty and that either have high student achievement or are improving student achievement dramatically.

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