HARRISBURG – A newly released independent audit of the Department of Education’s Classrooms for the Future initiative underscores the program’s effectiveness as a teaching tool, said Education Secretary Gerald L. Zahorchak.
Auditor General Jack Wagner released a review of the initiative this afternoon to reinvigorate high school classrooms through technology and teacher training, and the findings support continuation of the three-year-old program, the secretary said.
“This audit confirms what so many high school students and educators already knew: Classrooms for the Future is a cutting-edge, cost-effective way to help challenge our students and better prepare for success beyond high school,” Zahorchak said.
Among the audit’s findings and recommendations:
-The Department of Education established a comprehensive application process to ensure Classrooms for the Future funding was appropriated responsibly. “PDE did not simply hand out the money,” the audit states. “… PDE sought up-front assurances for itself that grantees would understand expectations uniformly and be accountable to meet them.”
-Classrooms for the Future has brought new energy to the high school learning experience. “The program has generated an enthusiasm for learning among school officials and students alike,” the audit concludes.
-Classrooms for the Future should receive continued funding in 2009-10 “in order to implement the program completely so it can achieve its full potential” and reach all districts that want to incorporate the program into their high schools.
Classrooms for the Future has gradually expanded since its inception in the 2006-07 school year, and is expected to impact about 500,000 students by the end of this school year by placing about 140,000 laptops in high school classrooms. Though the program was launched as a three-year initiative to reach all high schools, funding challenges resulted in the program receiving only half the needed appropriation in the 2008-09 school year.
“Given the universal acclaim for this program among teachers and students, we agree with the auditor general’s conclusion that Classrooms for the Future should be funded beyond the three years initially envisioned,” Zahorchak said. “We still have schools and educators who are waiting to take advantage of the technology and professional development Classrooms for the Future provides — and we still have students waiting to benefit from this amazing learning tool.”
The secretary also said the Department of Education will review the audit’s suggestions for minor administrative changes aimed at helping schools districts better understand the process and protocols for securing Classrooms for the Future funding.