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TUSD continues eCademy public forums

Grades 7-12 discussed

POSTED February 11, 2011 8:34 p.m.

Imagine a day when Turlock Unified School District students could have NetBook computers instead of paper textbooks. When the day of lugging around heavy backpacks filled with over-sized textbooks are gone. A day when students can do homework and participate in classroom discussions from practically anywhere they want, whenever they want. Well those days are just months away for TUSD’s non-traditional students.

TUSD looks to take leap into the future of education with the new eCademy Charter at Crane School, scheduled to open in August.

District officials met parents and community members Thursday night at Turlock High to discuss how the district will set up the eCademy academic program for grades 7-12.

eCademy will be the first charter school in the district. Charter schools are basically public schools that are guaranteed funding from taxpayers but aren’t held to the same state curriculum rules and regulations as traditional public schools, with the exception of core subject areas such as math, science and English.

The NetBooks will be provided to all eCademy students free of charge as well as Internet access. The computers will include access to e2020, the online distance learning program for eCademy and wifi access over a 3G network. In addition, the NetBooks will include security features such as content filtering and malware scanning.

At Thursday night’s meeting attendees discussed the e2020 curriculum and district staff provided examples of the platform. Students will log on to their NetBooks and go through a lesson plan, which will include vocabulary, lectures, lab lectures and lab assignments. Following the lesson the student will complete a homework assignment, followed by a practice test and then a real test.

“I’ve had students say this was the best, friendliest teacher they ever had because they can rewind and review the lessons over and over again until they learn it,” said Glen Blackley, a history teacher at Freedom Education Center.

When eCademy launches, the courses available should include social sciences, science, math, language arts and electives such as Spanish, art history, computer skills, health, sociology and psychology. All classes through eCademy are approved for admission to UC and CSU institutions.

“It mirrors what’s being taught in comprehensive schools so if a student leaves a school for a quarter and completes these courses they can come back without losing a step,” said Blackley.

Parents at the meeting suggested that students enrolled in eCademy engage in student-to-student collaboration, such as chat rooms. One parent asked “Will students ever see each other like on a field trip?”

“We think it would be a great idea for students to go from a virtual class to real,” said TUSD Superintendent Sonny Da Marto. “It’s really important to have flexibility.”

Parents also raised the suggestion that students from traditional schools, such as Pitman High School or Turlock Junior High School, could also take classes through eCademy and vice versa.

One of the biggest concerns for parents was if students would have regular access to live teachers at the Crane School location or remote access for help and feedback on assignments.

Student attendance will be tracked electronically through TUSD’s AERIES program, in which parents can input attendance and view grades.

The final eCademy charter petition will be presented to the TUSD Board of Trustees for approval at the March 15 meeting. The petition will then be submitted to the state for approval.

To contact Jonathan McCorkell, e-mail jmccorkell@turlockjournal.com or call 634-9141 ext. 2015.

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