Chromebooks Latest “Silver Bullet” For Lagging D-64 Performance?


One of the more memorable scenes in that iconic 1967 movie, “The Graduate,” involves a brief, profoundly superficial conversation between protagonist Benjamin Braddock and one of his parents’ friends, in which the latter imparts a one-word career revelation to the newly-minted grad:


In a life-imitates-art sort of way, the “educators” at Park Ridge-Niles Elementary School District 64 have come up with their own one-word revelation for ostensibly improving academic performance of D-64 students:


That was the watchword at the June 10th D-64 School Board meeting at which that Board voted 6-1 (Board pres. Tony Borrelli dissenting) to purchase 675 Chromebooks for $190,000 as part of a yearlong test of whether D-64 should purchase Chromebooks for every student.  Borrelli wanted to perform this test by purchasing only 157 Chromebooks, which would have replaced that same number of outdated Macbooks.  Borrelli’s more measured test reportedly would have saved the District $145,000.

But anybody who has observed the workings of D-64 over the past several years can read the handwriting on the Smartboards: this “test” stage is just a charade for those taxpaying suckers gullible enough to believe that it’s actually some kind of due diligence evaluation.  In reality, Chromebooks for every student (other than Grades K-2, for which iPads are the device of choice) is virtually a done deal.

Interestingly enough, we could find no mention of any clear, objective metrics by which the D-64 Board and Administration intend to determine the success or failure of this yearlong Chromebook experiment.  Then again, done deals don’t need metrics.

But given the chronic lackluster performance by D-64 students on the ISAT standardized examinations over the past several years, Chromebook-generated improvement measured by higher ISAT scores would have been a welcome, albeit novel, concept.  Or perhaps those two well-paid “tech coaches” D-64 hired a couple of years ago could come up with some other kind of measurement standard.

As “education” continues to be transformed into an alternate universe where customary measures of achievement are being supplanted by a culture of lowered standards, faux self-esteem, and a lack of accountability – by teachers and by the elected and appointed officials charged with directing and managing that process – Chromebooks are seemingly being touted as the latest “silver bullet” cure for whatever may be ailing our kids’ academic performances.

Not surprisingly, the folks at D-64 are carefully maintaining the charade that the Chromebooks are less about the technology and more about the learning.  For example, an April 22, 2013 story in the Park Ridge Herald-Advocate (“District 64 eyes iPads, Chromebooks for every kid”) describes how D-64 director of technology Terri Bresnahan extolled the Chromebook’s web-based platform, how inappropriate material can be easily filtered out, how it has a full keyboard, and how it is fully integrated with Google educational applications – all without mentioning any academic goals or standards for Chromebook-based learning.

Meanwhile, that same article reported that Board members John Heyde and Scott Zimmerman praised the District – and, by implication, themselves – for focusing on student learning and not technology for technology’s sake, also without mentioning any measurable Chromebook-related performance goals or standards.

Yet according to a more recent article in the Park Ridge Journal (“Dist. 64 Schools Go With Chromebooks,” June 13), Bresnahan proclaimed “the mission of the district is to advance the use of technology.”  And Board member Terry Cameron echoed Bresnahan with: “If we’re truly committed to technology we have to be willing to spend the money to [bring Chromebooks to the classrooms].”

That sure sounds like technology for technology’s sake to us.  Probably because it is.

We’re big fans of technology.  But as best we can tell, technology still hasn’t found a way to transcend GIGO: garbage in = garbage out.  And it doesn’t appear that D-64 has come up with adequate standards or an exacting  protocol for making a sound decision on Chromebooks, much less a persuasive case for such a significant commitment of time and money to such a Chromebook test.

But in the words of the Queen of Hearts in “Alice in Wonderland”: “Sentence first – verdict afterwards.”

And for the folks running D-64, that one-word sentence is…“Chromebooks.”

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