University Park

Pennsylvania's Classrooms for the Future program meeting with success

University Park, Pa. -- The preliminary results of a three-year statewide program to increase the technological and educational competency of Pennsylvania's students and teachers indicate that program has generated significant progress toward achieving its goals. The Classrooms for the Future initiative was implemented by Gov. Ed Rendell and designed to transform the Commonwealth's high schools and to help them prepare students for the challenges of the 21st century.

The Pennsylvania Department of Education began implementing the program in the 2006–07 school year. To date, CFF has seen the installation of over 145,000 computers, affecting more than 540 Pennsylvania high schools and benefiting more than 12,000 teachers and 500,000 students by equipping English, math, science and social studies classrooms with enhanced technology.

Penn State's College of Education partnered with PDE to develop a comprehensive framework for the evaluation. Over the succeeding three years, this framework was implemented among the school districts participating in the program. The core evaluation team, consisting of researchers from eight universities and numerous academic programs at Penn State, releases a yearly report describing the effectiveness of the program in promoting school reform. The Year Three Evaluation Report analyzing the effectiveness of CFF was just recently issued.

Significantly, the report says that the evidence analyzed so far in connection to CFF indicates that there have been notable changes for the positive in several areas, including student and teacher activity, student engagement and classroom organization.

"The Year Three Evaluation report shows an important milestone in the development of the program, which has been a remarkable success,” said Robin Clausen, co-director of the evaluation project.

One of the objectives of Classrooms for the Future at its inception was to provide mechanisms to encourage teachers to move away from the long-standing didactic approach of lecturing from the front of the classroom and to have teachers engage students in a more student-centered manner. After three years of observation, it appears that this objective has been met on several levels, especially in classrooms in the first year of the program.

“Pennsylvania’s classrooms are changing," said Kyle Peck, associate dean for research, outreach and technology in Penn State's College of Education and co-director of the evaluation project. "Most dramatically, there is an increased focus upon using new technologies as a catalyst to engage students. In CFF classrooms, there is a demonstrable focus on teaching what students need to succeed in the 21st century, while doing so in more effective ways.”

The most impressive changes were observed in teachers during their first year in Classrooms for the Future. Teachers in the second and third years of CFF tended to grow a bit and/or stabilize and not to revert to more didactic/traditional teaching methods over the following two years.

Overall it appears that Classrooms for the Future created a more personalized and collaborative educational experience for students. Students in CFF spent less time listening to a lecture from the teacher and more time working independently, working in groups and talking with the teacher in one-to-one or in small group conversations.

Teachers, in turn, spent less time lecturing in CFF classrooms and more time working with individual students and walking through the room observing and interacting with students. Additionally, observers reported that the physical layout of classrooms in the CFF program evolved away from the traditional "desks in rows, teacher up front" design. CFF classrooms typically were arranged in clusters of three to five desks, a layout that promotes student collaboration and group work. Of note in this regard is that teachers participating in their second and third years of CFF did report small but statistically significant changes.

"Important changes have begun; however, care must be taken to ensure that the progress that is evident at these preliminary stages continues and expands,” Peck said.

To view a copy of the complete Classroom for the Future Year Three Evaluation Report, and for access to complete information about the CFF program, visit online.

The Classrooms for the Future program seeks to improve technology competence among Pennsylvania's high school students. Credit: Penn StateCreative Commons

Last Updated November 19, 2010