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OnCUE Archive - 2001, April

Kerry Mazzoni: Integrating IT

by Brian McDonough

Former State Assemblywoman Kerry Mazzoni was appointed Secretary
for Education by Gov. Gray Davis in December after years of education
advocacy in the Assembly and elsewhere.

In announcing the appointment, Davis lauded her as a "driving
force for education during her tenure in the Legislature."

While in the Assembly from 1994-2000, Mazzoni was instrumental
in winning passage of a $9.2 billion school-construction bond. She
was chairwoman of the Assembly Education Committee, the Special
Committee on School Facilities Finance, the National Conference
of State Legislators Education Committee, and supported measures
to increase teacher training. Mazzoni also served as a member of
the Education Commission of the States and the Governor's School
to Career Advisory Council.

Prior to her Assembly service, she was a trustee — and twice president
— of the Novato Unified School District from 1987 to 1994. She was
also chairwoman

of the Public Education Coalition of Marin and the California School
Boards Association.

Mazzoni, 51, earned a bachelor of science degree in child development
from the University of California, Davis. OnCUE interviewed her
in early February, when her tech agenda was only beginning to take
shape, with January's AP-related grants the first example.

"I need to tell you," she said up front, "I've only
been on the job five weeks, and we've been very focused on the governor's
major initiatives."

That said, she went on to describe technology's role in education
and a number of specific upcoming technology initiatives.

OnCUE: What's the biggest
challenge to your education goals?

Kerry Mazzoni: Currently,
our greatest challenge is probably the need for 300,000 teachers
over the next 10 years, to make sure we attract and retain bright
people in the profession, so they in turn can be inspiring teachers
for our children.

OnCUE: Should technology
be its own subject, or should it be integrated into instruction
in traditional subjects?

Kerry Mazzoni: Our goal
is to make sure technology is incorporated across the curriculum.
We know over time how things have changed as it relates to technology
in our classrooms. It used to be, years ago, when we were first
introducing technology in the classroom, it was teaching technology.
We know that that is no longer the way to do this, so we are incorporating
it across the curriculum. We're also making sure that all our teachers
who are newly credentialed are trained in the application of technology
in the classroom.

OnCUE: What are the training
requirements?

Kerry Mazzoni: That's
something that the Commission on Teacher Credentialing and Institutes
of Teacher Training have done through a bill that went through the
Legislature a few years ago, requiring teachers to be conversant
in technology, so that is developed at the local universities and
colleges. It requires that by 2000 any teachers receiving their
credentials be trained in technology as it's used in the classroom.
Of course, we have issues with those teachers who received their
credential prior to that time, and the governor has provided general-fund
revenues for schools through Prop. 98 — he's increased those
since he's been in office — so that schools can use those for
whatever needs they have, various staff development monies to train
teachers. The California State University system also runs a professional
development institute for educational technology for teachers, and
last summer 5,000 teachers were trained, and this summer we would
anticipate about 12,000 teachers being trained.

OnCUE: We test students
in reading, science and math. If technology is as important as it
is, should we also be testing them in some way in IT literacy?

Kerry Mazzoni: Well, let's
see. I think that is more a function of integration of technology
in the classroom, as opposed to something we want to test. That
really is counter to our idea of integration, as opposed to teaching
technology.

OnCUE: Is technology adequately
funded? At this point, is it getting enough dollars, or enough of
a share of education funding?

Kerry Mazzoni: We are
doing a lot to fund technology — $800 million since Gov. Davis
has been in office. That's a significant amount of money focused
on technology. Some would say we always need more, and there probably
are some gaps, but we have come a long way in this challenge in
terms of making sure that California, the home of high tech, also
has schools that are up to speed in technology.

I really have not been focusing on technology [in the first month
on the job], though we are proposing a couple bills that deal with
technology.

OnCUE: What will those
upcoming bills propose?

Kerry Mazzoni: We have
our High-Tech High proposal of 10 new high schools — a $20
million item in the budget, providing $2 million grants to each
of the 10 high-tech highs, and private donations and revenue would
match that. We also are providing $20 million for school districts
to purchase software that relates to student analysis and data analysis
to support student achievement. We also have the Digital California
Project, which is statewide from kindergarten through university,
which provides Internet2 with regional hubs and access in every
county.

OnCUE: What will Internet2
bring to education? It's often talked of as a university-level thing.
Will it bring benefits as far down as kindergarten?

Kerry Mazzoni: Yes. Some
of the things it will provide for us: It will supplement our libraries
with resources from around the world, allow the sharing of lab facilities
using Internet collaboration tools, offer a wider variety of classes,
and provide access to interactive TV.

OnCUE: What would a high-tech
high be?

Kerry Mazzoni: There's
one in Napa and one in San Diego, and these can be either magnet
schools or charter schools, and they are designed around state-of-the-art
technology.

OnCUE: Often, key funding
for educational technology has come not in the initial budget, but
after May revisions if a surplus is found, for instance. Given the
energy crisis, is there likely to be less money found for technology
in this year's budget?

Kerry Mazzoni: We really
don't know. We'll have to wait until we have a better handle on
what the energy crisis is going to cost the state and what the revenues
are this year. So that is something that is still up in the air,
and of course if we have a surplus after the energy crisis, classroom
technology would certainly be one of the things that would be considered
as a way to allocate some of those resources.

OnCUE: With California
being the high-tech state, is there a role for the private sector
in educating its future workforce?

Kerry Mazzoni: Oh, certainly.
One of the initiatives the governor has proposed is a partnership
with business in which businesses would loan some of their highly
qualified people to be instructors, particularly, I would suggest,
in those areas, such as math and science. It will be a bill that
we will run this year, but it has not yet been entered.

OnCUE: As Secretary for
Education, after years in the Assembly as an advocate for education,
are you finding a difference between the roles?

Kerry Mazzoni: There is
a difference. One of the things I certainly enjoy about being Secretary
for Education is that I can focus entirely on education, which is
my passion, and I can continue to work and build on the reforms
and initiatives that occurred over the last several years while
I was in the Assembly.

OnCUE: What gave you that
passion for education?

Kerry Mazzoni: I come
from a family of educators, and it's something that's always been
a discussion around the dinner table, and it has just stayed with
me. It's something that I feel very strongly about. I benefited
from a wonderful public education in California, kindergarten through
12th grade, and then at UC Davis, so I feel that I received something
wonderful in my life from education.

OnCUE: When you look back
after you leave office, what would you hope to point to as your
accomplishments?

Kerry Mazzoni: When I
finish I want to look back and know that children in California
— regardless of color of skin or amount of money their family
makes — have access to the highest quality education so they
can have the opportunity for success I've experienced as a result
of high-quality public education.

Brian McDonough is a freelance writer in
Oakland, Calif.

Tech Grants to Provide AP Classes

The Education Technology Grant Program for High Schools provides
one-time funding to access to online Advanced Placement courses
and reduce the student-to-computer ratio in California high schools.
The money will help more than 150 schools acquire the technology
to provide four or more AP courses. An additional 1,650 schools
will receive awards to reduce the student-to-multimedia-computer
ratio to 4.75-to-1. The first round of awards was announced January
16.

"We have had inequity as it related to advanced placement
courses in the state," says Mazzoni, adding that the previous
legislative session put a focus on making sure all students had
access to advanced placement. "Because of different geographical
problems and funding problems, we have not been able to meet that
goal. So our program to get advanced-placement courses online is
very important and moves us toward our goal of making sure that
those children who are capable of advanced placement have access
to it."

Her technology advisor, Chris Schultz, was directly involved in
crafting the grants, and says that isolated schools are most in
need of the AP grants.

"We found in general the schools with the most barriers to
offering AP courses are rural schools and small schools that just
quite simply don't have enough students to put 30 kids in an AP
History class," he says. "But there may be three or five
kids who are qualified to take an AP course, and if we give them
access to AP online via technology, that allows those three or five
students in the small or rural school to take a course of that caliber."

Schools can select from several ways of implementing the distance-learning
courses. "Some schools use an instructor-led classroom, where
there's actually a teacher instructing a class, and students use
the computer to supplement what's going on in the classroom,"
Schultz says. "In other configurations, there's a cyber-instructor,
where the primary person who's delivering the content is an actual
person, but they're online, not in front of the class. So the class
is [physically] supervised by an adult, but maybe not an adult who
is expert in the content."

Still, the courses are not merely a wired version of study hall.

"In every case, the class is supervised by an adult physical
presence, and also by an instructional leader," Schultz says.