Mississipi Department of Education
Mississippi is a rural state with a population of nearly 2.8 million. In 1998, Mississippi was ranked 50th in personal income per capita, and, according to the latest U.S. Census Bureau report, roughly 31% of Mississippi's total population under the age of 18 live in poverty. The 1,012 public schools in 152 school districts are charged with educating approximately 49,000 students. Funding the technology needs of the state's public school students is difficult, but significant progress has been made since 1995, when the groundwork was laid for a statewide Technology Academy for School Leaders. In the process, Mississippi became the first state in the nation to adopt technology standards for administrators.
In 1995, Mississippi created a master plan for educational technology. The plan articulated a vision of commitment to "ensuring that all learners have equitable opportunities to employ a variety of technological tools to enhance the learning process -- to offer education anywhere, anytime for everyone." The first step was to build the necessary technological infrastructure and connectivity. To this end, the state funded a robust ATM/frame relay backbone that currently connects 95% of the schools -- and 100% of the districts, universities, and community colleges -- to the Internet. Mississippi school districts have connected 65% of the classrooms to the Internet through funding assistance from
This statewide infrastructure opened the door for more extensive uses of technology. A statewide compressed video-teleconferencing network links 120+ school/university/community college sites and delivers over 90 high school courses and countless professional development sessions each year. This network was upgraded to an ATM backbone in 2000. MAGNOLIA, the state-funded on-line database resource for schools and libraries, allows students to access electronic periodicals and other library materials that were never affordable in a traditional library. The Mississippi Student Information System, a comprehensive Web-enabled system for state reporting, allows educators greater access to student information at the touch of a button.
To promote the integration of technology in the total education program, the Mississippi Department of Education convened a task force of individuals from the public and private sectors. According to technology professional development coordinator Betty Lou Pigg of the Mississippi Department of Education, it was the task force that first called attention to an omission to the state's master plan: it included technology standards for teachers but not for school administrators. How could busy administrators become effective instructional leaders in technology without standards to guide their actions and decisions?
The group developed standards in seven areas: vision; funding and long-range planning; professional development; model user; the learning environment; student learning; and legal, ethical, and security issues. Aligned with the Milken Seven Dimensions and NCATE Curriculum Guidelines, the standards are intended as a template for the development of future technology training for administrators, to be delivered through the Technology Academy for School Leaders (TASL). (For more on the standards, visit http://teacherexchange.mde.k12.ms.us/new/Announcements/mississippi_technology_standards_administrators.htm.)
The goal for the academy is to provide every superintendent and principal in public and private schools with access to quality leadership development focused on whole systems change and technology integration. School leaders will have access to training opportunities and valuable resources, and district teams will use technology to communicate with each other and with teams from other districts.
An evaluation of the academy will establish benchmarks, monitor progress, and assess the impact of TASL on school and district leadership behavior. The following will be evaluated:
Formative and summative evaluations will be conducted throughout the course of TASL and beyond to fully evaluate the long-term impact of the program.
District teams (the superintendent and three to four administrators) who apply to attend an academy "camp" will get their first opportunity in March 2001. After that, the three-day camps will be offered several times during the year, with total registration limited to 40 at each one. Participants will learn more about external evaluations that measure the effective use of technology and its impact on school districts.
An important part of the evaluation will be a suite of assessment tools called Taking A Good Look at Instructional Technology (TAGLIT). TAGLIT helps principals and other school leaders gather, analyze, and report information about how technology is used for teaching and learning in their schools. It can help measure progress over time, generating data that help administrators make informed decisions, leading to better uses of technology for teaching and learning. During the camp, each team will work with facilitators to identify and address school-specific problems in implementing the school district's technology plan. Facilitators will continue to assist teams individually once the camp is over.
Administrators will also have access to an on-line professional development program for teachers and administrators called Connected University(TM). Created by Classroom Connect (http://www.classroom.com), it enables educators to improve their classroom Internet skills by completing a wide variety of instructor-led, project-centered courses offered on-line.
In helping school leaders become more knowledgeable about educational technology, the Mississippi Department of Education has received assistance from several partners, including the Office of the Governor of Mississippi, the Mississippi Economic Council, BellSouth Foundation, the Southeastern Regional Vision for Education, Southeastern and Islands Regional Technology Education Consortium, Howard Industries (a Mississippi-based computer manufacturer), the Consortium of School Networking, and Connected University.