L.A. educators find extras in system

Los Angeles Unified School District

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A court-ordered mandate was needed to bring about a new professional development system for the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD), and it may turn out to be beneficial for the district in unexpected ways.

The Web-based system not only will help improve needs assessments for special education teachers, but it also could boost the district's entire professional development process. In addition, it will provide school district officials with vital ammunition during budget negotiations.

"Professional development is usually one of the first things to be cut during these times," said Ruth Wharton, the LAUSD's director of professional development solutions. "But with the specific data this system will provide for us about where teachers are and what their needs are, that should give us a much better leg to stand on [for budgeting decisions]."

The system enables teachers to be surveyed online about their needs. Aggregate data from online forms are provided to LAUSD staff members and administrators to help with planning and program design. A phone-based process is available but "not encouraged," Wharton said.

The system can generate a variety of reports, down to the specific needs of individual schools. That will be a significant advance beyond the "one-size-fits-all approach" that has been applied in the past, Wharton said.

The system employs a program from Salt Lake City-based iAssessment Inc. called the Gateway Presentation System. It's an outsourced facility that uses the technical resources already in place within the LAUSD, eliminating the need for extra servers or other equipment that would add to information technology overhead.

The system is based on a modular technology framework, from which users build a customized environment tailored to their particular needs by adding various components, explained Dan Cookson, iAssessment's co-founder.

Wharton expects a LAUSD professional development support system based on the iAssessment technology to be fully implemented by 2004.

Robinson is a freelance journalist based in Portland, Ore. He can be reached at hullite@mindspring.com.

About the Author

Brian Robinson is a freelance writer based in Portland, Ore.

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