Computer assisted writing grant application

Copy of final grant proposal

Element 1: School Overview

  • Provide a brief overview of the school or schools that will be involved in the project. Include information about the student population (numbers, diversity), economic characteristics, grades served, teacher population, and location. Also include the greatest strengths of the school, greatest challenges of the school, and any specific curricular efforts in which the school is currently involved.
  • Describe why the applicant wants to participate in this grant program, and how the proposed project will fit into the school’s instructional and/or achievement goals.

The enrollment of Branford High School is about 1,150, and the school serves students in grades 9 through 12. The ethnic composition of the student body is broken down in the following way: 90% White, 5% Asian, 3% Black, 2%, Hispanic, and less than one percent Native American. One area where there is a great deal of diversity is the socio-economic makeup of the community. There is a significant amount of low income housing, including five trailer parks and three subsidized housing units, as well as numerous multi-million dollar homes in the community. The high school is located in a suburban town with a population of about 20,000. The total number of teachers is 84. The teacher-student ratio was 1:15. Three significant curricular efforts the school is currently involved with are: establishing an honors challenge option for heterogeneous 10th grade English classes, more effectively utilizing the school wide rubrics linked to Branford High School's performance graduation requirements, and implementing a district-wide initiative to embed 21st Century skills into the curriculum. The greatest strength of Branford High School is its mix of experienced and new teachers, which creates a positive teaching culture that values progressive teaching and learning strategies. After a recent accreditation study, Branford High School was commended by NEASC for a far-reaching vision, high standards of student achievement, sophisticated and effective assessment of student learning, focus on personal decision making and goal setting, and supports for students and faculty members in a culture that encourages improved learning for all. One of the greatest challenges in the school involves providing the most effective instruction for the heterogeneously-grouped 9th and 10th grade classes. The diversity of the student body makes the challenge of hetergeneity vital but difficult. Currently, the school has begun ways to more effectively provide support to those high-achieving students in the mixed-ability classes by offering an honors option for students willing to extend their learning in a more independent, rigorous manner.

There are some significant school wide initiatives that link into the objectives of this grant proposal. First, we are applying for the grant is to expand on our current efforts to embed technology and 21st Century skills into the school's curriculum. Next year, the district will be beginning a revision cycle for its Language Arts and Social Studies curriculums. The work is part of a larger effort to align district goals with 21st Century skills standards, which includes the use of technology to find, process, and evaluate information. This project would fit right into those efforts because it would promote the use of digital writing tools in the classroom, including the use of an online scoring tool. Currently, teachers have used the school's computer labs to further instructional needs in this area, but there has been few efforts to use laptop computer applications as part of daily classroom instruction. Second, in 2007-2008 Branford High School will implement an honors option challenge within its heterogeneously-grouped sophomore English classes. As mentioned earlier, Branford will maintain its heterogeneous grouping in English 10, but allow students who choose to take the honors challenge to earn that distinction for their transcript. By incorporating an online writing and feedback tool, teachers in the English 10 classes will be able to provide valuable feedback to all students while better able to accommodate both high- and low-achieving students in the mixed ability classes. Finally, the district's K-12 Language Arts curriculum will begin the revision process in the fall 2007. At least one of the teachers in the project will be part of the curriculum revision process. The experience of using the online writing evaluation will be beneficial to the district in its efforts to more effectively identify, evaluate, and embed 21st Century skills into the curriculum.

Element 2: Project Summary

  • Include a brief summary of the proposed project, listing project objectives. Describe how it will be structured in the school, in what classes, and include the number of students and teachers involved and a time line for implementation, for the 2006-07 and 2007-08 school years.

Project objectives:
»To improve the students ability to write and respond to literature as measured by the school wide writing rubric
»To more effectively use quality feedback on student writing prompts
»To challenge students of all abilities to improve their use of process writing skills and strategies.

The proposed project calls for 10th grade students in the selected classes to use the online writing feedback tool as part of the regular instruction provided during the 2007-2008 school year. By using classroom laptops, students will perform numerous classroom writing tasks within the online program, including journal prompts, drafts of essays, in-class impromptu writing, and essay tests. In many cases, the student writing will be in response to fiction and non-fiction texts read in class in preparation for CAPT in the spring. The school already has a wireless network in place that will allow the students to use the laptops and access the online writing tool. Under the guidance of the two teachers involved in the project, students will write in a variety of forms, including the use of blogs, collaborative wikis, and more traditional word-processing applications. Assignments will be geared towards online writing with regular feedback provided by ETS through its Criterion™ scoring system. The program will accommodate about 65 10th grade students, many of them in sections co-taught with special education teachers. All 10th grade students at Branford High School are enrolled in English 10, which is a heterogeneously grouped class. Additionally, 10th grade students in the 2007-2008 school year will be given the option of selecting an honors challenge from within the heterogeneously grouped English 10 classes. Using online feedback and collaborative tools will provide the teachers the additional opportunity to challenge the high-achieving students in the class, while serving the needs of all levels of learners.

The project will involve about 65 10th grade students in three different classes, at least two of which are inclusive and co-taught with a special eduction teacher. The two English teachers will take the lead in implementing the online software into instruction and overseeing the its use in the classroom. This will include training the special education teachers in using the software so they can provide even more assistance to the identified students in the classroom. If approved, the hardware will be purchased before the end of the 2006-2007 school year, allowing both teachers to familiarize themselves with the equipment. Over the summer, both teachers will be trained in using the software, and they will collaborate on implementing the program beginning September 2007. Once school starts for the 2007-2008 school year, the teachers will assess all the students - in the project and in the control group - with a common writing assignment that will be scored using the schoolwide writing and response to literature rubrics, both of which align to CAPT standards. The results will be compiled for comparison against later assessments. During the fall, all students will complete at least two CAPT-related writing assignments each month. For those in the project, those assignments will be scored using the online writing evaluation tool. By December, the students will continue to complete at least two CAPT-like assignments, but also be required to write several drafts of a formal essay using the online writing evaluation tool. The sophomore midterm is a 90-minute Response to Literature assessment based on an actual CAPT administered in a prior year, and students in the project will complete it using the online writing evaluation tool. During the second semester, there will be at least two more CAPT-like writing assignments administered, and then after the 2008 CAPT exam, the students will focus on writing a major research or literary analysis essay. In all cases, the students in the project will use the online writing evaluation tool as part of the writing process.

Element 3: Computers/Technical

  • Describe the student laptop computers to be purchased, allowing a ratio of one computer to one student for use in project activities (list type, specifications, number of computers) including how they will be charged for student use throughout the day, and how they will be stored daily.
  • Describe the teacher laptop computers to be purchased (describe type, specifications, number of computers). These computers must be for the sole use of project teachers, for teaching and lesson preparation. These computers may be used by project teachers in the instruction of other classes or groups beyond the scope of the project if appropriate.
  • Include the security measures to be taken to protect the laptop computers from damage, theft, viruses, and other problems.
  • Describe the creation/adoption of any policies, procedures, and programs that may be put into place to assist in the laptop project’s success, i.e. home use, insurance and replacement, maintenance.
  • Describe the technology that will be used to allow the laptops to connect to the Internet.
  • Explain provisions for how technical support will be provided for the laptop computers.

The following laptops will be purchased for students:
Twenty-five (25) Dell Latitude D520, Intel Core 2 Duo T5500, 1.66GHz, 667Mhz, 2ML2 Cache, with 15 inch screen, 512MB, DDR2-533 SDRAM, 60 GB hard drive, 8X DVD+/-RW.

The following laptops will be purchased for the teachers:
Two (2) Dell Latitude D820 Intel Core 2 Duo T550, 1.66GHz, 667Mhz, 2ML2 Cache, with 15.4 inch screen, 1.0GB, DDR2-533 SDRAM, 80 GB hard drive, 24X CDRW/DVD with Cyberlink Power DVD.

The following security measures will be taken to protect the laptop computers from damage, theft, viruses, and other problems:
» The laptops will be stored in a mobile metal laptop cart which will be stored in the classroom in which it will be used. The cart will hold 30 laptops. The classroom will be locked during after hours and when classes are not in session. The laptops will be charged in the cart overnight and when not in use.
» According to the district's technology plan, each computer with Internet access shall have a filtering device that blocks entry to visual depictions that are obscene, pornographic, harmful or inappropriate for students, as defined by the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA) and as determined by the Superintendent or his/her designee.
» All computers will have an anti-virus software currently in use on all computers in the district.
Additionally, the district provides portable laptop locks for teacher and/or student stations -- allowing the teachers and students to work in other areas of the building (e.g., library media center).
All district technology support staff are iSafe trained and available to assist the grant teachers and students in any Internet safety needs or discussions.

The district currently carries an insurance policy that covers replacement costs and damage to the computers used in the building. In addition, the price for each laptop from Dell includes a three-year warranty for parts and services. The above laptops are the current models for students and staff district-wide, allowing for backup support and loaners if equipment is needs to be out of service for warranty work. The technology support staff are trained in technical support on these specific models.

The laptops will connect to the Internet in the classroom via a wireless network, which is currently in place in the entire building. Each laptop will be outfitted with a wireless network card which will allow seamless access to the Internet on each computer. The high school has over 60 wireless access points.

There are three full-time technology professionals assigned to the high school who will oversee and assist with the operations of the laptops, including maintaining and updating virus protection software, and ensuring that the district's technology plan is followed. The district-wide Director of Educational Technology is available to support the building level staff, as well as provide professional development workshops and follow-ups activities. The district-wide Information and Technology Literacy Curriculum Committee will support the grant project, teacher and students with any of their resources in the technology, media center, or library areas. For systems engineering support beyond the district-wide technology staff, the district contracts annually with the local Regional Educational Service Center, ACES -- providing weekly, on-site support.

Element 4: Laptop Applications

  • Provide a list of the software (beyond operating systems) that will be included on student and teacher laptops for use in the project. Explain why this software is necessary to meet project objectives.
  • Provide the name and a brief description of the online writing/feedback tool that will be available for each student in the project, and why this tool was selected. (The tool must include opportunities for students to write and receive frequent feedback provided via artificial intelligence, based on writing qualities similar to those required on CAPT; must be research-based, proven effective in studies). It is suggested that a multi-year license be negotiated for the online tool. Criterion through ETS - $15 a student for unlimited submissions, for a year subscription, Hillary Rickert 866-717-5171. My Access -
  • Provide an estimate of the expected time students will use the program each week, and why this is appropriate for helping to attain grant objectives.
The following software will be included on student and teacher laptops:
» Criterion1.
» Microsoft Office Pro with Word, PowerPoint, Excel, Explorer, and FrontPage. This software is compatible with the software applications used on all other computers in school. Word is especially helpful as a word processing application to use as a complement to the online scoring system. (Cost provided by BPS.)
» Macromedia Suite (Dreamweaver, Flash, Fireworks). This software is compatible with the software applications used on all other computers in school. (Cost provided by BPS.)
» Citrix. A thin-client product allowing teachers or students to access all files and software from off-site locations. (Cost provided by BPS.)
» Mozilla Firefox. This will be used as an alternative to Internet Explorer and provide a more advanced platform for using and fully utilizing some the online writing applications, including the blogging software.
» VocabGrapher. This tool will be loaded on all the laptops and provide additional support and resources for vocabulary review that will be linked to the writing instruction.
» AVG Anti Virus Software protection. Virus protection software -- updates daily. (Cost provided by BPS.)

The online writing/feedback tool selected for this proposal is Criterion through ETS. The tool was selected because it was determined through an evaluation by the two teachers to contain the most accessible interface and productivity tools. In the past, other teachers at Branford High School have worked with the ETS online scoring system. The link to order the services is here. The program also contains several facets of feedback that we felt would be beneficial to this proposal. It allows for a flexible integration of writing rubrics, which will allow the teachers to incorporate CAPT standards and use of the Branford High School school-wide graduation requirement rubrics into the writing and feedback process.

It is estimated that students will use the program for one to two hours a week, which will include completing both formal and informal writing tasks and using the software for feedback. This time is appropriate to attain the project's objectives because it allows for the teachers to address the school's curriculum requirements while utilizing the online writing feedback tool on a regular basis to supplement and enhance instruction. The one to two hours allows for students to utilize the writing tool at least one to two class periods a week, depending on the instructional schedule. It is likely that the students will use the laptops for additional class time for other applications, including word processing, blogging, research, and/or other collaborative writing efforts.

Element 5: Curriculum Integration

  • Describe how the use of the laptops and tools will be incorporated into the school’s instructional program and address CT Curriculum Frameworks for Language Arts (and other subjects where writing is expected, if applicable to the proposal).
  • Explain steps that will be taken to ensure that involved staff will integrate the technology into curriculum and instruction effectively.
  • Include an explanation of the following:
    • which grades and subjects will be impacted and in what ways, and
    • how students/classes/teachers will be selected for inclusion in the project.

The use of the laptops will play a significant role in helping teachers and students address the Connecticut Curriculum Frameworks for Language Arts. Those classes participating in the study will simply use the ETS online writing tool to replace many paper and pen writing activities expected in the classroom, which will include informal writing such as journal entries along with more formal examples such as regular CAPT-like assessments about the literature students are reading. In English 10, students are currently required to complete several regular CAPT-like assessments based on their classroom readings. Students will still be expected to read a variety of literary, information, and persuasive texts, but will use the laptops as part of the writing process to respond to the texts and to produce written texts to express, develop and substantiate ideas and experiences. A major component of Branford High School's 10th grade curriculum focuses on developing in students the necessary reading, responding, and writing skills necessary for success on the CAPT.

There will be two teachers involved in the program. Both will be observed by administrators in relation to this project. Throughout the length of the project, the two teachers involved will collaborate weekly to review objectives and efforts in the classroom. Currently, both teachers have used laptops in the classroom, although nothing with the whole class, and are familiar with the technical applications necessary for the project. The project is set up to supplement the existing course work in English 10. Both teachers will follow best practices for use of the laptops for writing. To help ensure this, the staff will undergo an online training session with staff from ETS to assist in properly using the online writing evaluation software. There will also be regular professional development opportunities taken by the teachers, which is more extensively outlined in the next element.

Grade 10 English classes will be impacted by this proposal in several ways. First, students in those classes will be given ample opportunity for a variety of feedback related to required CAPT skills and concepts. Use of the laptops will mean additional writing activities and requirements for the students, which will affect their writing ability. The 10th grade English classes were chosen for inclusion in the project because they are heterogeneously-grouped classes with a broad mix of student abilities. Additionally, at least two of the sections - depending on enrollment numbers at the school - will be co-taught by special education teachers. This provides a unique opportunity to observe how the use of widely available laptop computers and online writing evaluation tools impact students of differing abilities. Both teachers selected for inclusion in this project have used computer applications in the classroom, including laptops and existing Smart Board™ technology. Under the project's funding, the classrooms will be equipped with ceiling-mounted digital projectors that will link to the teacher laptops and allow them to be used with the Smart Board™ and to use it to make PowerPoint presentations for the whole class or project other pertinent instructional material to the class.

Element 6: Professional Development

  • Describe the professional development that will be provided to teachers involved in the project. Professional development must be significant, and include the integration of technology resources into core curricula of the pilot classrooms, as well as technology classroom management strategies.
  • Explain how project teachers will be supported in the implementation of this project on an ongoing basis, between and after formal professional development activities.
  • Provide a time frame for professional development that will be included in the project.

The teachers involved in the project will participate in several types of professional development activities. First, the teachers will be trained by professionals from ETS in use of the online writing feedback software. This will be accomplished via online tutorials and consultation with company representatives. During the course of the year, the teachers will undertake the following professional development activities:
»Using school collaboration time to meet with one another to assess the program's effectiveness and to plan future instruction
»Meeting regularly with district technology specialists regarding use of applicable hardware and software
»Undergoing regular training with representatives from ETS officials regarding the Criterion online writing system
»Participating in NCTE's "Pathways for Advancing Adolescent Literacy" professional development online modules throughout the year
»Conducting regular observations of other teachers in the building who have or are using laptops in the classroom
»Attendance at the NCTE's annual convention on "Mapping Diverse Literacies For the Twenty-First Century" in November
»Use existing district online technology and 21st Century Skills workshops through How to Master subscription. Online workshops are available to every district teachers as well 200 high school students. Students participating in this grant would receive priorty registrations on How to Master.
»Request follow-up technology workshops through the Director of Educational Technology to expedite applying the software skills to the classroom.

The following time frame will be followed in regards to professional development:
Spring 2007 - the two teachers will begin using the laptops in the classroom and meet regularly to discuss applications and issues arising from their use. The district will provide training on the use of laptops in the classroom and integrating them with the digital projectors and SMART Boards ™ in the classroom.
Summer 2007 - the teachers will undergo training sponsored by the writing software company, including the participation in webinars and other workshops.
Sept. - Oct. 2007 - the teachers will participate in school-sponsored professional development with district curriculum specialists to develop embedded tasks and assessments using the online writing evaluation tool.
Nov. 2007 - the teachers will attend the NCTE's annual convention, which focuses on "Mapping Diverse Literacies For the Twenty-First Century: Opportunities, Challenges, Promising New Directions"
Dec. 2007 to Spring 2008 - the teachers will collaborate about the various implementation and evaluation strategies for different online writing tasks and assessments.

Element 7: Support

  • Describe the supports that will be provided by the school and district’s administration to increase the project’s success. Include a description of the building-level administrator’s role in supporting the project.
  • List in-kind or other resources the school/district will provide to increase the project’s success.

School Principal Edmund C. Higgins, Superintendent Dr. Kathleen Halligan, and Educational Technology Director Wanda Wagner are all supportive of the project's success. As stated earlier, the project fits into the district's strategic plan initiative to more effectively embed 21st Century skills into the curriculum. In addition, the project aligns to multiple 2006-2009 BPS Technology Plan objectives. The teachers involved in the project will use the laptops and online writing tool to help meet the school's goals of incorporating technology. In the past, the administration has supported staff efforts to purchase and use laptop and other technology in the classroom by regularly upgrading the technology available in the classroom. Over the last two years, the school has been installing in dozens of classrooms ceiling-mounted digital projectors which work in conjunction with teacher laptops. Additionally, the district is committed to installing more of these digital projectors in upcoming years. On top of the technology, the administration is willing to allow for release days to the two teachers for collaboration and professional development.

The following in-kind resources also will be provided by Branford Public Schools through its full-time technology support department:
» Maintenance of the district's network and server infrastructure
» Maintenance of the wireless network available to the classrooms in which the laptops will be used
» Maintenance of the ceiling-mounted digital projectors in the classrooms where the laptops will be used
» Technical support from three full-time staff members in the building
» Funding for the site licenses for Microsoft Office Suite which will be used on all machines
» At least two professional development release days for the teachers involved in the project

Element 8: Project Continuation

  • Describe how the project will be continued beyond the 2006-2008 school years; specifically, what steps/provisions has the applicant made to ensure project continuation?

The project will continue beyond the 2006-2008 school years to be expanded into more English 10 classrooms. By including two teachers into the program, the project can easily be expanded to accommodate at least four more sections of English 10 in the upcoming years. With the laptops in place, the curricular efforts of the writing instruction can be extended beyond the 2006-2008 school years. Additionally, part of the grant involves the teachers sharing the results of their work with colleagues in the building; the teachers will take a leadership role in the building to assist in training other teachers and staff in the use of the technology. will review the current ETS contract and consider extending it based on input from the project.

Element 9: Project Evaluation

  • Describe the provision for a control group (students not in the proposed project) and how a control group of students will be selected.
  • Describe the steps to be taken to evaluate your project’s effectiveness. The steps should include not just a summative evaluation at the end of the project period, but “checks” during the project implementation to inform where modifications may be necessary.

The control group of students also will be 10th grade students. Both teachers have three sections of English 10, and each teacher will incorporate the use of the ETS online writing tool with two sections of classes, leaving the third section as the control group. As stated earlier, the sections that will use the technology will be classes co-taught with a special education teacher.

Regular checks of the program will be completed to evaluate our project's effectiveness. As stated earlier, the teachers will collaborate weekly, which will allow for regular informal evaluations of the project's effectiveness. Special education teachers in the class will also participate in collaborative meetings to evaluate student progress. Since students will be required to complete regular CAPT-like assessments, the data and results from these writing samples will be compiled to allow for more formal analysis of student improvement and/or achievement. To assess the progress towards the project's objectives, the following formal evaluations will also be completed:
» All students will be assessed using the Branford High School school wide rubrics for writing and the response to literature at the beginning of the year and at the end of each quarter.
» A final summative writing assessment will be given in May or June and scored against the school's writing rubric to compare to earlier assessments.
» All students will complete quarterly surveys about their writing habits, including their use of revision and peer and online feedback.
» Students will maintain their work in an electronic portfolio, which will be regularly reviewed by both the students and the teachers.
» Teachers will each track three random students throughout the year and regularly review and evaluate those students' writing samples to evaluate growth in writing.

Note: An evaluation will also be conducted that involves all of the projects awarded under this grant program, to evaluate the collective results. Participation in these evaluation activities is a requirement for award in this grant program, and is agreed to by applicant by submission of a signed copy of Appendix D: Agreement Form.

Element 10: Fiscal Information

  • Include a completed ED114.
  • Include a detailed Budget Narrative. The Budget Narrative should provide a description of the type and costs of technology to be acquired.

A copy of the grant is here
The current budget narrative is here