South Carolina: Tech-Savvy Teachers

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South Carolina’s innovative ePortfolio system is helping educators getup to speed on technology and become more comfortable integratingnew tools into their classrooms.

TECHNOLOGY WILL BE fully integrated into the curricula and instruction of the schools by December 31, 2006.”—Title II, Part D, Enhancing Education Through Technology, No Child Left Behind Act of 2001

Case Studies: South CarolinaIn order to comply with the EETT mandate cited above, schools must ensure that their teachers know how to integrate technology through curriculum and instruction, which first requires teachers to be proficient in the technology themselves. To meet this need, South Carolina created a powerful tool to help teachers acquire the necessary knowledge, skill, and attitude, and to understand what it takes to fully integrate technology.

The answer to the state’s search for a valid, verifiable measure of teacher technology competency came in the form of a performance-based ePortfolio system developed by eSchoolware. As part of the system, teachers are asked to accurately pre-assess themselves during the baseline evaluation that is used to develop teacher improvement plans. Artifact submission (submitting actual work as evidence of knowledge or skill) is encouraged; it significantly improves the credibility of the proficiency assessment and dependably measures teacher progress.

The ePortfolio system provides a valuable tool for districts to use in compliance with the state requirement that technology competency assurance be submitted for all teachers on a fiveyear renewal cycle. Lynda Hawkins, senior director of accountability at Florence County School District Three, says: “The ePortfolio program has taken our teachers a step further into the world of technology integration. Teachers are now keeping their own ePortfolios that include lesson plans, integration activities, etc., and are requiring their students to use the ePortfolios in order to meet the technology standards for their grade level. We see the teachers becoming more confident in their own use of technology, and therefore using the technology more in the classroom. That’s what we wanted all the time.”

How It Works

The ePortfolio system offers both diagnostic and prescriptive information to meet individual teacher technology needs. The system works in stages:

Self-assessment. Teachers take an electronic self-assessment with a series of questions based on the International Society for Technology in Education’s National Educational Technology Standards for Teachers. The assessment places teachers in one of four skill levels: Entry Level I, Progressive Level II, Proficient Level III, or Exemplary Level IV.

Plan creation. Each teacher develops goals and plans based upon feedback from the system. The system identifies and recommends individualized technology classes and resources offered by the school districts and the South Carolina Department of Education to help teachers advance to the next skill level.

Professional development. School-based technology curriculum coaches provide small-group and individual embedded professional development according to a detailed assessment item report generated for each teacher, as prescribed in each teacher’s staff development plan.

Verification of proficiency. Teachers create and present ePortfolio artifacts that verify technology proficiencies.

Final evaluation. The pre- and post-assessment data is used by the project evaluator to determine the effectiveness of professional development disseminated across the state

With the click of a button, principals and technology curriculum coaches are able to use the data from the ePortfolio system to:

  • provide evidence supporting NCLB requirements for teacher professional development
  • develop professional growth plans for teachers
  • plan schoolwide professional development based on teacher technology skill
  • determine budget requirements needed for teacher advancement from Entry Level I to Exemplary Level IV

Having an Impact

The ePortfolio assessment system was implemented in South Carolina as a pilot to test the effectiveness of the technology curriculum coach initiative, a component of an EETT competitive grant from the state that required grant winners to hire technology coaches. Eighteen high-need school districts were included in the 10 technology coach projects receiving grant funding. A total of 630 teachers came under the staff development leadership of 30 technology coaches.

The charge to the technology coaches was to move their teachers to higher technology proficiency levels by establishing staff development plans and providing training resources. The project evaluator took an initial reading of the technology proficiency of the 630 teachers in March, and then their post-training proficiency was measured in May using the ePortfolio assessment system. The resulting data (see “Making Progress”) shows marked progression of the teachers through the proficiency levels.

The baseline data shows that 395 teachers were at Entry Level I at the beginning of the evaluation. By the end of the program, 135 of them had advanced to Progressive Level II, which more than doubled the number of teachers who had been at that level initially. Most encouraging is the progression of many Proficient Level III teachers to Exemplary Level IV; the results display an increase of 65 percent in the number of Level IV teachers. The significant advancement of Entry Level I teachers provides the evidence needed to verify the effectiveness of the technology coach initiative and the ePortfolio assessment system.

Looking Ahead

The success of the technology coach initiative encouraged the South Carolina DoE to continue both the initiative and the ePortfolio assessment system. Consequently, as of July, the state is offering all school districts the assessment system at no charge. Money to support this statewide project was secured primarily through the state’s unique public/private K-12School Technology Initiative.

We see teachers becoming more confident in their ownuse of technology, and therefore using the technologymore in the classroom. That’s what we wanted all the time.
Lynda Hawkins, Florence County School District Three

The use of ePortfolios has been instrumental in measuring the progress of Florence County School District Three teachers through the Rise and Soar with Technology project, funded by an EETT competitive grant. This innovative program instructs parents, teachers, and students on using technology to meet the South Carolina science standards in grades 4-6. Students, teachers, and parents attend Teaching Kids About the Environment, a three-day environmental education camp offered by Clemson University. The students combine technology with outdoor experiences to learn science, math, and writing skills. The ePortfolio assessment system includes exemplary samples of student work from the program, as well as documentation of teacher progress in technology proficiency throughout the year.

The success of the ePortfolio tool has promoted state and district discussions regarding how all stakeholders can work together to streamline data collection, analysis, and decision making. Under consideration are plans to implement an electronically based student and administrator portfolio system. The state is well on its way to creating classrooms in which technology plays a vital role.

Tammy Mainwaring heads up the Office of Educational Technology at the South Carolina Department of Education. Dean Bergman evaluates educational technology programs for the department.

This article originally appeared in the 07/01/2006 issue of THE Journal.

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