Tablet woes raise questions

One of the Amplify tablet computers that was in use at High School Ahead Academy before the screen was broken.

GREENSBORO — Amplify has offered to replace more than 15,000 tablets for Guilford County Schools with new devices.

Amplify CEO Joel Klein made the offer in a letter sent Thursday to Superintendent Maurice “Mo” Green.

“We recognize and take very seriously the concerns you have raised with the hardware and equipment provided,” Klein wrote. “On behalf of Amplify, I would like to reiterate that resolving these concerns is a top priority.”

Green would not detail all the district is seeking to resolve the matter. He said the talks with Amplify are ongoing.

“This is certainly a step in the right direction,” Green said of Klein’s offer.

Amplify's offer was disclosed during a meeting Thursday evening of the Guilford County School Board.

Green suspended the use of the tablets on Oct. 4 out of safety concerns, including partially melted chargers.

District officials have now reported nine partially melted chargers. Students still have not returned another 2,100 chargers, officials said earlier this week.

Officials also are still trying collect 157 tablets, Chief Information Officer Terrence Young told board members during a meeting Thursday night.

It is not yet clear if students will have the tablets back before the end of the year. Officials said Thursday there still is no timeline for returning the devices to students.

The school system is leasing more than 15,000 tablets from Amplify, a Brooklyn-based education technology company. The tablets are part of a four-year pilot program paid for with about $16.4 million of a $30 million federal Race to the Top grant.

The overall program, focused on middle schools, aims to use technology to individualize student instruction.

Also Thursday, the board discussed putting an Advanced Placement Academy at Western Guilford High as early as fall 2014.

But first, some board members have questions about how the program will be funded and the fairness of allocating resources to Western after taking resources away from similar efforts at other schools.

School officials and parents hope such a program would help reduce the number of students leaving Western for other schools, particularly Grimsley High.

The number of Western students reassigned to other schools has affected class sizes, course offerings and faculty numbers for students left behind, Principal Pete Kashubara and others told board members Thursday night.

The number of AP students at Western has fallen to 254 this year from 408 in 2009, according to district figures. At the same time, student performance on AP exams has steadily improved, rising to 57.7 percent passing scores from 44.4 percent

The program would start with a cohort of ninth-graders in 2014, although other students would also have access to the AP classes and could also qualify for an AP diploma.

​Contact Marquita Brown at (336) 373-7002, and follow @mbrownk12 on Twitter.

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