Thornton proposes a computer for every middle school student

Thornton proposes a computer for every middle school student

CUMBERLAND - The upcoming school budget isn't due to Mayor Daniel McKee until April 1, but already Supt. Phil Thornton is talking about one major programming idea: equipping every middle school student with his or her own computer.

More details about the plan, including the cost, are expected at the next meeting of the school board's Achievement Subcommittee on Jan. 21.

But Thornton was already noting last week that studies show student achievement rises when each child has a laptop or tablet for work in the classroom and at home.

Thornton is still putting together plans, but said at last week's School Committee meeting that he would like to start with the middle school grades and then add a grade per year.

The superintendent began to lay the groundwork for this project several months ago when he distributed a new book to members, "Every Child, Every Day: A Digital Conversion Model for Student Achievement" by Mark Edwards, a superintendent in North Carolina who outlines his district's successes after putting a laptop in the hands of every student.

Says the book jacket: "'Every Child, Every Day' gives readers a look at the visionary success factors that worked together to produce positive results - a culture of caring, digital resources, a relentless focus on data, leadership at all levels, and student-centered learning - and shows how their interplay drove, and can drive, academic improvement in virtually any school district."

A workshop for the school board members to review the book is expected this winter.

School Committee Chairwoman Lisa Beaulieu told The Breeze she imagines the School Department would license materials that would be loaded into the computer device, thereby providing an efficient way to expand access to more updated materials without committing the schools to buying them outright.

She predicts "an immediate impact" and "dramatic results" as coursework is customized for students.

She suggested the devices would go next to the high school, with some uncertainty about whether to put them in the hands of elementary school kids.

A very early cost estimate suggests $300 per device and $100 for insurance. There are about 1,065 students in the two middle schools, grades 6, 7 and 8, suggesting this would be a half-million-dollar investment.

The devices would also help fill the district's need to have a computer available for every student taking the next round of state-mandated testing in the spring of 2015, called PARCC, Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Career.

Said Beaulieu, "I think it's an exciting opportunity for the district" that's coming just as the schools' wireless infrastructure is readied.

"It gives a kid a dynamic way to access curriculum" and she predicts receive more immediate feedback.

According to the town's bylaws, budget season begins now, with Town Hall department directors' deadline for submitting their spending plans to Finance Director Brian Silvia the first Monday of March, or March 3.

School officials get an extension and have until the first Monday of April, or April 7, to complete their budget assignment for Silvia.


I find it hypocritical and un-American that virtually every citizen agrees that the children are our future and they should have the very best education, yet, most of the budget supports salaries and pensions. THEY SHOULD ALL HAVE COMPUTERS AND LAPTOPS! Imagine a BIG sign on the front of the school that says "THIS SCHOOL IS SUPPORTED BY DELL"! In a capitalistic society that depends on profits, WHY wouldn't the schools be receiving private and corporate support? Is it because the tax payer is too convenient? Well, not for much longer...