hgazette.com, Haverhill, MA

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December 27, 2012

State to Haverhill: Computers no match for teachers

Visit brings talk about future of education

A top state education official said the renovated Haverhill High School has better technology than most Massachusetts schools, but warned that computers cannot replace old-fashioned classroom instruction by teachers.

“What you have in this school is sophisticated, compared to what lots of schools in the commonwealth have,” Mitchell Chester, commissioner of elementary and secondary education, said during a recent tour of Haverhill High.

Haverhill Superintendent James Scully said the high school’s goal is to have an iPad for every student by next fall. Chester responded that technology must be used wisely, that much of schools’ focus must remain on the value of the human element — discussions between teachers and students.

“Not all of us know what to do with this stuff or make it as impactful as it has the ability to be,” he said of the many electronic devices available for classroom use.

During the tour, Chester met with teachers and parents at Haverhill High and Tilton Elementary School. Asked about state cuts in funding to education, he said the state is spending about a quarter of a billion dollars more this year on kindergarten to grade 12 education than last year.

“I don’t see that commitment going away,” he said.

Haverhill schools are receiving about $4 million more in state money this year than the year before.

Kindergarten teacher Sandra Green told Chester she and others teaching at that level must truly focus on the classroom instruction that Chester said is a key. Green also told Chester that communities must expand preschool programs because many children entering kindergarten are not prepared.

“It’s tough to catch them up to where they need to be,” she said.

At Haverhill High, Chester poked his head into several classrooms, chatted with students in the halls, then met with a group of teachers, principals and other staff and parents for a question-and-answer session.

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