New software geared to boost PAISD students who are at risk
New computer software at Port Aransas High School is projected to help students with state-mandated testing, plus keep some pupils from dropping out and, in the process, may keep the school district from losing some state funding.
The software, called NovaNET, allows students to do a wide variety of course work at their own speeds. Students started using the software Jan. 14.
The Port Aransas Independent School District Board of Trustees voted unanimously in October to purchase NovaNET, using more than $35,000 in grant money.
More recently, the software has been installed, and at least eight PAHS teachers have been trained to operate it.
Twelve students are using the software. Gary Mott, one of at least eight PAHS teachers trained to conduct lessons with NovaNET, said he expects anther eight students to get involved within the next few weeks.
Students use NovaNET by working at their own paces at computers. The instruction provided by the software is full of multimedia lessons.
PAHS students have used NovaNET for instruction in health, computer science, world history, geography, criminal justice, English, math and more.
NovaNET is "a great tool," said Mott, who teaches theater, English, speech and criminal justice in addition to NovaNET classes.
"We're not the first ones on board with this," Mott said. "It's used by every state in the union. And it's all in line with the state (course) requirements. And it documents the kid has done his work."
For example, Mott said, after a student has done some work using NovaNET, teachers easily can check computer records to see what time the student logged on, what instruction the
are at risk student received and for how long, and how well the student did when quizzed on the subject.
NovaNET is handy partly because some of the students using it are in danger of dropping out of high school, falling at least a year behind from failing courses, said Travis Longanecker, principal at PAHS.
Students failing in regular classrooms might succeed with NovaNET for a variety of reasons, Longanecker said. Learning with NovaNET might help a student avoid a personality conflict with the teacher who taught the course that the student failed, for instance, Longanecker said.
While students can use NovaNET while logged in at their home computers, PAHS does not assign homework with the program. Failure to do homework is one of the main reasons students fail courses, Longanecker said.
Students who once would have dropped out or sought a GED will now have NovaNET as an option while still enrolled at PAHS, Longanecker said.
"The result is fewer drop-outs and more options for students who want to leave to pursue a GED," the principal said.
NovaNET will be good for the school district's finances because more drop-outs mean fewer students in school, and that can mean less state funding, Longanecker said.
NovaNET is available to students periodically throughout the school day in various classrooms.
In the second week of February, PAHS will begin holding beforeand after-school sessions using NovaNET to help students prepare for TAKS - the state-mandated Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills test.
The sessions will be mandatory for students who have struggled to pass parts of the TAKS or who have not passed benchmark TAKS testing.
Students will be required to attend two or three sessions each week. Longanecker said he expects about 50 students to be involved.
Longanecker said he hopes to add a whole new course at PAHS in fall 2008 specifically to use NovaNET to help students prepare for the SAT and ACT college entrance exams.
The software was purchased with a grant from the Gates Foundation's High School Allotment Fund. PAHS used $41,000 granted from the fund last year to build a new computer lab.
The trustees' vote in October devoted $36,942.50 toward purchasing NovaNET software and getting licensing. The money also paid for installation and training.
Current plans are for NovaNET to be used at PAHS alone. But the software could be expanded later for use at Brundrett Middle School and H.G. Olsen Elementary School, Longanecker said.