Speak Up Hero: Walker County Schools
Participating in Speak Up
Walker County Schools have been participating in Speak Up since 2006 as a mechanism to develop its technology plan and understand the needs of its students and teachers. Patrick Gann, Technology Director, is the force behind the district’s use of Speak Up, noting the surveys inform the district’s continuous improvement plan and “help to make people aware of what has to change.”
The surveys have become part of the routine in the school district. Teachers look forward to taking the surveys and often ask when it will be available. Principals want the results to determine what needs to be accomplished and how they compare with other schools in the district. Students value the opportunity to express their views. Close to two-thirds of the students take the survey and over 75% of teachers and professional staff participate.
What has changed?
Technology in Walker County Schools has evolved from a very basic level to one that is far more sophisticated. Walk into classrooms today and you will see 3 D printers, digital displays, and interactive whiteboards. Students use iPads and access educational apps. This scene today is very different from the past when projectors and mimeograph machines were the norm.
Bandwidth in each building was increased from 1 Gigs to 5 Gigs, allowing for the increased usage of technology devices. Professional development for teachers is more targeted to address areas in need of improvement.
Recognizing the Impact
Survey findings highlighted the digital divide and the needs of high school students. With dollars available through ESSER, Walker School could focus on meeting the specific needs of high school students. The impact was significant with the district providing more devices to students, working with community colleges to introduce robotics and computer science courses, a necessary component to stimulate economic growth in the area.
Advice from Walker Schools
“Schools and districts need to embrace Speak Up and develop a rapport with principals and teachers on how important it is to get accurate data,“ according to Gann. “Once they see how the Speak Up data is used for school improvement and the allocation of additional funds, they understand why participation is essential and beneficial.”