Letters are going out to invite people to be part of a new focus group being formed by the Washington School District.

Focus Group 3 — Improving Student Achievement and Engagement in the Technological Age — will be comprised of educators, administrators, parents, community members, civic leaders and support personnel.

Superintendent Dr. Lori VanLeer said letters are being mailed to some individuals whose experience and expertise would benefit the group, but membership is open to anyone interested in helping the district develop a better method to prepare students in this technologically advanced world.

“We want to develop a plan to best incorporate technology into our students’ daily work environment so they become more engaged to improve achievement levels in all areas,” she said.

“We need to determine where we are as a district and where we want to be in the future, how do we get there and how will we know if we’re sucessful,” she added.

The focus group will be divided into six subgroups which will work on various parts of the plan, VanLeer said. These subgroups include device selection; funding; implementation/awareness, professional learning, communication; and evaluation.

Meetings will be held throughout the upcoming school year. Meeting dates are Aug. 22, Sept. 19, Oct. 17, Nov. 14, Jan. 9, Feb. 6, March 6 and April 3. All meetings will be held from 6 to 8 p.m. at the district’s Technology and Learning Center, 4245 Highway 47, in Washington.

Six Subgroups

The device selection team will be charged with researching infrastructure needs and issues in the district, piloting devices, such as tablets or iPads, and then reporting back to the whole group.

Pros and cons of the different devices and functions will be noted, as well as costs. Changes needed to support using any recommended equipment also will be researched.

The mission of the funding subgroup will be to determine the true cost of any proposed plan, how the district would pay for the initial startup and for future maintenance. Research also will be done on the cost and need for insurance on any devices purchased.

The implementation/awareness team will look at delivery of instruction, curriculum and assessment of the proposed technology options and explore expectations of students, teachers and staff members. This subgroup will determine how and where to pilot a new program, develop a plan for expansion and the overall impact, both pros and cons.

The job of the professional learning team will be to determine the training needs of staff, students and parents and research different methods of providing that training, the sharing of best practices and assistance for those who may struggle with it. Analyzing professional development costs also will be part of this team’s mission.

Determining who the key stakeholders are and developing a system to keep them informed about the plan will be the job of the communications team. This group will assess the level of buy-in from parents, community leaders, civic organizations, teachers and administrators. A web page will be developed, including a question-and-answer forum for discussion.

The mission of the evaluation team will be to determine a method of measuring success of any program implemented. This evaluation tool should be able to identify specific strengths and weaknessses.

Work Worth Doing

“We have a lot of work ahead of us, but it is work that is worth doing,” VanLeer said.

“We, as an educational community, must always strive to provide our students with the best educational experience that we can give them, and to do that, we must constantly push the envelope and innovate at every turn,” she added.

People interested in joining Focus Group 3 should contact Rob Landers, district technology coordinator, at 636-231-2800, or rob.landers@washington.k12.mo.us.