DURHAM — Durham school leaders are hoping they can get an app for underperforming students.
On Tuesday, Superintendent Eric Becoats announced the system wants to buy Apple iPads for teachers and students at two low-performing schools.
The plan is part of how Durham Public Schools propose to spend $4.5 million in federal Race to The Top money. It still needs state and federal approval.
A technology facilitator would work with teachers to integrate the 11/2-pound mini-computers into their daily instruction, Becoats said.
"What applications can you download that can help students with fractions," he said. "Or what applications can you download that may help students within areas within science."
In addition to iPads at W.G. Pearson Elementary and Lowe's Grove Middle School, the four-year plan includes adding an hour to Neal Middle School's day, creating a Science, Technology, Engineering and Math School on the campus and a math/science summer camp.
Each of the three campuses would also participate in a process that would replace principals, institute comprehensive instruction reforms and provide extra support.
Becoats said the transformation model was the least intrusive of the four models the state offered school systems. He is talking with the state about whether replacing the principals is necessary and said if he has to replace them he hopes to transfer them elsewhere in the district.
Lowe's Grove Principal Kathy Kirkpatrick doesn't know the details of the iPad curriculum but said anything that involves computers could add excitement to education.
"Anything that is technological is definitely going to engage kids," she said.
As for her job, Kirkpatrick said she knows Becoats has asked for a waiver. "It is purely business," she said. "He is very supportive of me."
Durham schools submitted the plan to the state Department of Public Instruction on Nov. 8. The state has until Monday to submit detailed plans to the U.S. Department of Education. The money is expected to be available in December.
North Carolina, one of 12 winners in the national Race to the Top competition, is set to receive $400 million in the federal initiative to strengthen public schools.
Sara Clark, spokeswoman for the state Department of Public Instruction, said officials want to wait until they receive federal approval before talking publicly about the districts' proposals.
Clark said she is not aware of any large-scale programs in the state that have given iPads to public school students, but at least two schools have provided iPod touches to students.
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