The Baltimore Sun only told half of the story of the digital demise of Baltimore County Public Schools. While the amount of money spent on the devices is staggering, it pales in comparison to the money being spent annually on the digital education programs being played on the devices (“Four years in, Baltimore County schools’ $147M laptop program has produced little change in student achievement,” Dec. 13).
Education is big business, and Silicon Valley is ripe with start-ups hawking the next greatest thing. Some school districts and school boards choose to make decisions based on sound evidence-based research. Others, like Baltimore County, don’t.
Despite the fact that the Maryland State Board of Education had compiled a list of digital learning programs that had been tested — albeit lightly — and proven effective, BCPS chose instead to contract with companies whose products had yet to be tested at all, making our students guinea pigs with nothing more than their futures at stake. The money being given to for-profit companies in questionable no-bid contracts is staggering and not easy to tease out of the school budget with parts of the program strategically hidden in various budget categories. Some have estimated that STAT and related costs could approach $1 billion by the first dozen years.
When the need for student services and new schools and support staff is on the rise, how long can we continue to funnel resources into a failing program?
We are four years into STAT. The results have been lackluster at best. And now research from all over the world is starting to fill in the blanks. Ed tech is failing our children. If the CEOs of the ed tech software companies are keeping their children as far away from their products as possible, perhaps we should follow their lead. Because the skills employers are seeking — collaboration and teamwork, creativity and imagination, critical thinking and problem-solving — can’t be honed behind a screen.
Bronwyn Mitchell-Strong, Sparks
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