New York is using technology to improve instruction, track achievement, and raise middle school skills in mathematics and language arts, state officials say.
Following two years of development, the state education department launched in March 2005 an online resource that gives teachers ready-to-use lessons that align with state education standards and tests. The Virtual Learning System, or VLS, is a Web portal that offers more than 2,500 classroom lessons, as well as access to library, archive, and museum holdings, and public-broadcasting programs, according to James Kadamus, the state’s deputy commissioner for elementary, middle, secondary and continuing education.
Dovetailing with that effort is the state’s emerging student-identification system. The system will give local districts and state education officials secure access to student records and transcripts, using student-identification numbers. The system will also help officials monitor trends, including student-performance trends that could influence VLS content, Kadamus says. By the 2005-06 school year, students in grades 3-12 will have numbers linking them to the system, with every New York state public school student assigned one by 2006-07.
Federal dollars pay for both the VLS and the student-identification system. Federal money, in fact, pays for about a third of instructional technology programs in the state, according to Jonathan Burman, a spokesman for the state education department.
In 2004-05, New York received $94 million in federal funds to improve teaching and learning using technology, officials say. Nearly $63 million of that amount came as competitive grants to districts to boost achievement in math and language arts. On top of that, the state gave districts $193 million in 2004-05 for hardware and software purchases and technology infrastructure improvements.
Test scores in the past five years show that middle school students, in particular, need help in math and language arts. “Those are our major weaknesses,” Kadamus says. For the 2004-05 school year, the state also awarded grants totaling $3.3 million so districts could use technology to make progress in those subjects.