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 The Forest Park Model

Forest Park is located in a suburban community approximately 35 miles south of Washington, D.C. in Woodbridge, Virginia. It is a comprehensive school, serving over 2,500 students in grades 9 through 12.  Forest Park provides a variety of high tech vocational preparation programs that use modern laboratories as well as challenging academic offerings that strongly emphasize college preparation.  Forest Park High School has been designated as the Center for Information Technology in Prince William County. In 2002 Forest Park High School was invited to serve as the pilot high school in a national Community of Practice (CoP) to advance teaching and learning through the optimum use of technology.  Members of a CoP participants share replicable expressions of best practices to create life-long learners with the critical-thinking skills to compete in the 21st century economy.  This approach can transform education without increasing budgets, impacting teacher unions or requiring policy changes.  Forest Park High School offered two important best practices to CoP participants.

IDENTIFIED BEST PRACTICES

1.) The Information Technology Program (iT) (Coordinator Chuck Drake)

The Information Technology (iT) Program is a four-year rigorous and challenging course of study for academically and technologically motivated students.  Students are engaged in a program of studies developed through a collaborative relationship with the business and academic community.  Upon successful completion of their course of study, students are eligible to receive an iT certificate and medal to accompany their graduation diploma.  iT core areas, classes and suggested sequences are as follows: 
  • Graphics/Multimedia; Graphic Design I 9th ,IT computer Graphics I, II, 10th, and 11th ,     IT Multimedia Software Design, Development I & II, 11th, and 12th
  • Engineering/Networking;  iT Foundations of Technology 9th ,  Computer Systems Technology (A+ curriculum) 10th , iT Network Design and Engineering , CiscoAcademy 11th & 12th  
  • Math/Programming;  Computer Math 9th , ADV Geometry 9th ,  AP Computer Science I 10th , AP Computer Science II  11th , Advanced Computer Studies
2.) Service Learning through Student Working to Advance Technology (SWAT) (Coordinator Brian Hackett)

Begun as a community outreach through our Learn and Serve program we converted the Service Learning aspect of the SWAT team over to meet the needs of a projected based learning approach to our iT program.  Students complete their community service through the Bridging the Gap project. 
  • As one SWAT student said, "I want to thank you for giving me the opportunity to give back to my community and school… I feel as if I have contributed a lot. … it is a treat when I see the happy faces of the kids when I bring in a refurbished computer.”
  • One of the iT program’s primary focuses is to develop a technology-based approach to service-learning.  Students apply information technology skills to respond to needs such as web site construction, repairing and recycling old computers, and developing technology for special education, senior citizens, students and teachers. 
  • Computer Literacy is necessary to keep up with the changing demands and opportunities of modern society.  The goal of the Students Working to Advance Technology (SWAT) program is to provide citizens and students of Prince William County with the opportunity to expand their technological skills and knowledge. SWAT is an effort of the IT technology program at Forest Park High School. SWAT is made up of students in the technology classes of iT Essentials (Hardware), Cisco (Networking), and Service Learning (Volunteer)
  • To achieve this goal we have established a SWAT team. The SWAT team, with the help of our partnership with a non-profit, procures computers and equipment and then rehabilitates them for the community.  The team is responsible for the coordination of rebuilding and distribution of recycled computers.  These computers are donated to needy students in the classroom and in the community.  Upon completion, computers repaired or built are given a bar code and must be inventoried. It should be noted that computers might be defined as all of the following: CPU, Monitor, Keyboard, mice, printer and Laptop.  Inventory sheets are addressed each nine-week period, and pickup and delivery is documented.  The team is in charge of all computer-related problems.
 Key elements of SWAT’s sustainability at Forest Park -  
  • Addresses local, state and national standards
  • Secured a non-profit for procurement of computers to be refurbished
  • Secured up front financial and administrative support
  • Has an identifiable relationship to current educational initiatives
  • Does not impact school system security or budget 
Forest Park’s Partnership -
     On September 10, 2008, Prince William County Public Schools Education Foundation and the iT Specialty Program(s) entered into a partnership agreement with the Community and Business Engagement Office to create a program for Virginia students that refurbishes and recycles used computers while providing the tools for education and certification in the field of IT repair. The primary focus of partnership is to use surplus hardware to create a sustainable program for Virginia students that prepares them for the modern workforce
 
     Bridging the Gap is a community technology literacy project that connects students who may lack the financial resources with technology and learning. Students who are members of the SWAT program at Forest Park, who have been educated in Networking and Hardware through our iT program, receive donated computers from area businesses. Many of these computers do not meet the high specifications to sit on the county network, yet are excellent working computers for home use. This project reaches out to our local community and donates these computers to area families along with educating them on the proper uses of the technology.
We channel this project through the Instructional Technology Resources Teachers (ITRT) at each school as we feel they have the greatest understanding of technology literacy and along with other staff members can help to identify students that may benefit most from this project. Here is what we asked them to do:
  • Identify students who could benefit from a computer donation 
  • You will need to make sure that you can contact the parent/guardian to see if they would like a computer donated to the student for home use
  • Make sure the parent/guardian or ITRT can come with the students to a brief yet important demonstration on setup and use of the computer (A parent/guardian/ITRT must be there to sign off on the donation)
  • The recipients must be able to transport the computer home
  • Each family will receive a complete system (CPU, Monitor, Keyboard and mouse), and each system picked up will be tested and reviewed with each student/parent prior to donation.
 
We honored the requests on a first come basis, if our requests exceed our supply we prioritized based on the following suggestions by our students: (only 1 computer per household):
  1. Students within the Forest Park feeder system
  2. Elementary School students
  3. Middle School students
  4. High School students.
  5. Recommendations from the ITRTs should note those with the greatest needs first if possible.
  6. Recommendation from administration and guidance.
Upon the completion of the BTG spreadsheet, we begin the paperwork process. 
We then would inform the ITRT if we have computers available at this time for donation. Once we informed the ITRT, we send them a letter, both in Spanish and English that they can give to their students/parents to inform them that they have been chosen to be part of the event and what they will need to do. 

Measuring Impact -
     The BTG project at Forest Park High School in the past three years has reached over 10 schools and hundreds of families and over 2,000 students across Virginia. The BTG project has donated recycled computers to elementary, middle and high schools. Many non Government computer systems have gone to non-educational institutions as well, including local community centers such as ACTS and SERVE, and communities devastated by Hurricane Katrina. As this project has grown annually, its potential impact has been seen as a model for other districts throughout the State by providing local schools and families with free hardware that can open the door to increased access to the tools needed to be successful in today's technology rich economy.
     By the end of the 2009-2010 school year, the VA STAR program has partnered with 10 schools/districts from across the State including Prince William County, Fairfax County Schools, and Virginia Beach Public Schools.  
     The STAR program utilizes the insight of educators and school administrators to design a program that seamlessly integrates into current curricular operations. Some schools use after school clubs to implement VA STAR. The intent of the Virginia STAR Advisory Board is to set the long–term objectives of the program but allow each interested school to retain creative autonomy to meet students' development needs.
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