Located in a low-income neighborhood of East Oakland, Hawthorne Elementary School serves 1,400 students in grades K-6. The area surrounding the school has a reputation for crime, drugs, and gang activity. An influx of immigrants each year brings the school an increasing proportion of limited-English and non-English-speaking students.
Built in 1939, Hawthorne's main building houses nine regular classrooms and four half-sized classrooms for special education and resource labs, including a computer lab. In addition, 18 portable classrooms are scattered across a concrete yard. Students are organized into both single- and mixed-grade units. Approximately 85% of Hawthorne students are eligible for free or reduced lunch; 59% are designated as LEP or NEP; and 70 students are in special education. Fifty-seven percent of the students are Hispanic; 19% are African American; 23% are Asian/Pacific Islander; and 5% are Caucasian, Non-Hispanic. Hawthorne's staff includes 44 certified teachers (6 of whom work half time, teaching in pairs) plus special education teachers and aides. It is estimated that 1% or fewer of the students have computers at home.
Hawthorne has had a long-standing commitment to educational reform. In 1987, the school began implementing programs that addressed the social and affective needs of students, specifically to: (1) make education more relevant to the population that they were serving, (2) prepare students for the 21st century, and (3) address the "horrendous drop out rates of children of color." A conflict management program was introduced, followed by a program teaching skills for working in cooperative groups. Together, these programs are credited with reducing discipline problems within the school, facilitating cooperative learning skills schoolwide, and laying the groundwork for other new programs. Within its district, Hawthorne is one of the most active schools in applying for and receiving special project grants and funds. In the spring of 1992, Hawthorne became one of 14 Demonstration Schools within the Oakland Unified School District, receiving intensive resources from the district's desegregation funds to implement technology-supported schoolwide change. The program components included: adoption and implementation of a schoolwide improvement model; 10 to 15 days of additional staff development; extended instruction for students at risk (20 days of additional instruction); and integration of technology into the curriculum. Specific technology-based activities have included serving as a test site for Computer Supported Intentional Learning Environment (CSILE), and for the Galaxy Project.
Education reform and technology implementation have evolved hand in hand at Hawthorne. Staff members feel strongly that technology expertise is critical to the future success of students and that schools serving lower SES students should provide the technology tools more readily available in affluent communities. Technology use by students began in 1983, with an Apple IIe lab (18 computers) funded with state and federal funds. In 1990, Hawthorne was one of three schools in the district to receive 45 Mac LCs. With three computers in their classrooms and the available applications, 15 teachers began using the computers with their students, primarily for word processing, drawing, and math. A take-home computer program and computer-based adult literacy class provide parents with technology access and training. Special projects, such as (CSILE) and Galaxy, were brought in largely because they fit in well with the school's ongoing reform efforts.
At the heart of the CSILE project, which is used in variety of subjects, is the use of technology to support collaborative problem solving, group investigation, and knowledge building. CSILE software consists of a communal database, with text and graphics capabilities, which students in the participating classrooms access through a local area network. In four CSILE classrooms, students spend at least a half hour per day entering new information, theories, and opinions into the database. They comment and critique one another's work on-line, locate information, and construct links between related entries. Students have created an ongoing, on-line literature circle--sharing information within and across classrooms about books they have read. Students also have engaged in math problem solving--posting solution strategies in graphics and text. In two 5/6 grade classes, CSILE has been used in an interdisciplinary project in which students in each class invented their own hypothetical ancient culture, produced and buried artifacts for that culture, and then conducted an archeological dig on the other class' site, making inferences about the culture from the materials they uncovered. Students in each of the classes used CSILE to communicate across groups working on different aspects of their culture and built large databases describing and illustrating the language, food, art, and religion of their hypothetical civilization.
In the Galaxy Project, funded in part by Hughes Aircraft Company, students viewed weekly video segments (either in Spanish and English or close caption) on science or language arts topics. Each segment presented issues and problems for students to solve. Between video segments, the students worked in collaborative groups on related projects and shared their responses and research findings with other classes through facsimile machines linked to the Galaxy Institute via satellite. Each school was paired with partner schools (in Florida, Massachusetts, and New York) for ongoing videotape and faxed message exchanges.
Hawthorne has a full-time on-site technology coordinator who runs the computer lab, participates in teachers' planning, troubleshoots technical problems, assists with software choices, and trains teachers and students in the use of particular technologies. During 1993-94, two graduate research assistants provided technical and curricular support for the CSILE project, preventing or correcting the kinds of system failures and training problems that impeded progress during the first two years of field testing. The Galaxy Project field test experienced some technical difficulties in its first year as well, particularly with the facsimile exchange. Hawthorne has a Galaxy Project coordinator who acts as liaison between the teachers and the Galaxy Institute.
The district Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction reports that Hawthorne's test scores are "on par" with the rest of the district. She adds that Hawthorne has a much smaller percentage of students who are retained or suspended, which she attributes to the school's focus on conflict management and other programs addressing the social/affective needs of the students. Nevertheless, average standardized test scores ranged between the 19th and 30th percentiles for sixth graders (in 1992), considerably higher than the scores of second graders (7th to 14th percentiles), but still far below what faculty and administration feel the students have achieved academically. The school has implemented portfolio assessment in some classrooms, and the district is examining alternative forms of assessment.
1700 28th Street
Oakland, CA 94601
Contact: Jill Krause
T: (510) 533-8362
F: (510) 533-8205