Sheehan

Teaching gizmos can wait

Staff WriterJune 16, 2010 

Who doesn't like a gizmo?

Name something you want to do and, as they say, there's an app for that.

Including, perhaps ... fix our schools?

Gov. Bev Perdue hopes so. She included $39 million in her budget to equip teachers with handheld devices to better track students' progress.

Perdue wants teachers and schools to stay current - maybe even ahead of the curve - technologically. In programs around the state, including in some Chapel Hill-Carrboro and Fayetteville schools, these monitoring doohickeys have apparently helped improve student performance.

"Individual assessment technology ... allows teachers to track how students are learning throughout the year - not just at the end with end-of-grade tests," Angela Hoskins, a fourth-grade teacher from Sampson County, raved in a blog on the governor's website.

"These are not PDAs or Blackberries for teachers," Chrissy Pearson, Perdue spokeswoman said.

There's just one problem. Gizmos cost money.

And the state has none. Make that less than none.

The state has so little money that thousands of teachers have lost their jobs over the last year.

Which makes the gizmos less than popular with teachers such as Mike Lloyd, who don't have a job.

Lloyd, who worked in law enforcement for more than 20 years, decided to make a lateral move into teaching five years ago.

Back then, word was that there was an impending shortage of teachers.

"Ha!" he says now. He worked for four years in Pender County before being laid off. He was out of work for seven months, then landed a contract position with the Wake County schools, at Apex High School, teaching civics.

Last week, that contract came to an end.

Lloyd, 55, is in Wilmington now for his annual National Guard training. He figures he won't bother looking for a job until August. Until then, the money - and the jobs - will be in limbo.

So when he read about Perdue's proposal to take the handheld devices statewide, he was furious. He did some figurin'. At an average salary of $43,348, with benefits of $13,000 and some change, Perdue's computer money could hire back 689.95 teachers.

"I'd use the remaining 0.95 to buy pencils and paper - that's what I've been using to evaluate my students," Lloyd said. "When I taught eighth-grade language arts and social studies, I didn't need a handheld computer to tell me which kids were in trouble."

Pearson said the governor is keenly aware of the difficult choices the budget presents. So far neither the state House nor the Senate appears likely to approve the total for taking the devices statewide. The governor understands that, Pearson said.

But Lloyd has trouble understanding why she even asked. He has written letters to Perdue every week for the last year. He forwarded me several, along with the governor's form letter replies.

Lloyd's argument is simple: Wait on the gizmos.

Keep the teachers.

They're the best app of all.

ruth.sheehan@newsobserver.com or 919-829-4828

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