The Public Eye

Reports from the Bee's investigative team

June 22, 2010
Grant works wonders until teachers get pink-slipped

A $400,000 grant from the California Department of Education meant fourth- and fifth-grade kids at three Elk Grove Unified elementary schools could learn to use technology to improve their language art skills.

It paid for projectors and 20 laptops for each grade level at Prairie, David Reese and Mary Tsukamoto elementary schools, said UC Davis' Carl Whithaus, the project evaluator.

A quarter of the money had to be used for teacher training, officials said.

The teachers started video blogs, taught how to put together digital videos and hooked students up with cyber pen pals to talk about books.

Tight budgets, however, resulted in many of the teachers being laid off or being sent to other campuses as the district reshuffles its staff, Whithaus said.

Six of the 18 teachers remain on the layoff list, said Elizabeth Graswich, district spokeswoman. She could not say how many of the remaining 12 would be moved to other schools from reorganization.

"Just because the teacher moves to another school doesn't meant they can't assist at another school," Graswich said.

"It's definitely tough," Whithaus said. "If you have a sixth-grade teacher reassigned to fourth grade, you have had none of the professional development related to writing or the technology to be really effective."

Before the personnel reshuffling, the program was actually working. Whithaus said that two of the three schools had higher test scores and the third met other goals.

"It's almost like hitting the ball out of the park," Whithaus said. "They hit the top of the wall."

- Diana Lambert

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