Teaching resources a strong point for Rowan

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 2, 2009

By Sarah Nagem
A higher percentage of teachers in Kannapolis City Schools than the Rowan-Salisbury Schools system say they work in a good place to teach and learn, that has effective leadership and enough access to instructional technology. But more teachers in the Rowan-Salisbury system say they have access to appropriate teaching materials and resources.
The results are from this year’s statewide teacher working conditions survey, part of an initiative from Gov. Mike Easley.
Rowan-Salisbury teachers ranked their access and reliability of technology far below the teachers in Kannapolis, Cabarrus County and the state.
Among Rowan-Salisbury teachers, 64 percent said they somewhat or strongly agreed that they have sufficient access to instructional technology like computers, software and the Internet.
That number compares to 82 percent among Kannapolis teachers, 78 percent among Cabarrus County teachers and 76 percent statewide.
In Rowan-Salisbury, 70 percent of teachers who completed the survey said they agreed somewhat or strongly that the reliability and speed of the Internet at their school is sufficient.
In Kannapolis, the number was 85. In Cabarrus County, 84 percent agreed somewhat or strongly. The state number was 79 percent.
The perceived lag among Rowan-Salisbury teachers might reflect where teaching takes place, said Phil Hardin, the school system’s executive director of technology.
Many of the schools in the system are in old buildings, where it’s hard, and costly, to install networks, he said.
Also, some classrooms are housed in mobile units that might be at one school for a while and then go elsewhere.
“It’s not wise use of funds if you spend four or five thousand dollars putting the (system) in,” Hardin said.
As for access, Hardin said, about 95 percent of all classrooms had Internet availability last school year. But training teachers how to use new technology is an issue.
Slightly more than half of the Rowan-Salisbury teachers who completed the survey said they agreed somewhat or strongly that they are sufficiently trained to fully use instructional technology.
In Kannapolis, the number was 61 percent; in Cabarrus County, 70 percent; and statewide, 61 percent.
Hardin said technology training for teachers is essential. Twelve technology facilitators, which provide instructional support to teachers, serve the system’s 20 elementary schools, he said.
Each middle school has its own technology facilitator, Hardin said, while the high schools share four. “They are not available to every school every day,” he said.
The school system’s budget request this year to county leaders included money to hire more technology facilitators. But county commissioners provided schools with the state minimum amount of money, forcing school leaders to give up plans to hire more of these positions.
Having more facilitators likely would have helped, Hardin said.
While Rowan-Salisbury teachers aren’t as pleased with the state of technology at their schools, they are happy about their access to teaching materials and resources. In Rowan-Salisbury, 86 percent said they agree somewhat or strongly that they have sufficient access to those things. In Kannapolis, the percentage was 78; in Cabarrus County, 79. Statewide, it’s 76 percent.
All three school systems had slightly higher percentages of teachers who plan to stay at their school for the next two years.
The same is true for the percentage who say they teach in a safe environment.
The survey might provide a glimpse of how local teachers feel about their working conditions. But Dr. Walter Hart, assistant superintendent for administration for the Rowan-Salisbury system, said staff recruitment is about more than good facilities and cutting-edge technology.
Often, teachers choose where they will teach based on pay rates, Hart said. “Teacher recruitment is an issue for every school district in this state,” he said.