South Tahoe High receives state award | TahoeDailyTribune.com

South Tahoe High receives state award

Jack Barnwell
jbarnwell@tahoedailytribune.com

South Tahoe High School received high marks and a gold star for high academic standards from the California Department of Education when it released its California Gold Ribbon Schools Award.

The list of schools, announced on May 5, was one of 180 high schools in California to receive the honor, and the only high school in El Dorado County.

South Tahoe High also received additional marks for being a Title I Academic Achieving School.

South Tahoe High Principal Chad Houck said Tuesday that South Tahoe High School's recognition came for its one-to-one technology program, where students received Google-based laptops, and for its use of the Google classroom.

"It struck me without a doubt that our school was a gold ribbon school and that our staff, our teachers and community deserved that recognition," Houck said.

Houck said that LTUSD's superintendent James Tarwater had been a staunch supporter of the one-to-one technology, where the district used Microsoft Windows netbooks.

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That changed over the summer at South Tahoe High when it became a pilot for using Chromebooks and the Google Classroom application suite.

All of the students and the teachers received a Chromebook.

"It was a way to leverage education," Houck said. "We several teachers begin the school year implementing Google Classroom."

The Classroom program allows students and teachers to use Google applications both in and outside of school for their projects and assignments.

Houck said that the data collected correlates with a 10 percent drop of missed assignments. While it's not directly related, it has occurred at the same time Google Classroom went online.

"As the year has progressed we've noticed a huge increase in collaboration at the high school," Houck said.

The Gold Ribbon award included three other categories, including health sciences, visual and performing arts, and career technology education.

Houck said while South Tahoe High has strong programs in all the areas, by the time he was aware of the Gold Ribbon criteria, there was only time to focus on one angle.

"We focused on the one signature practice that was already a district-wide practice and raised the bar," Houck said.

Math instructor Kristi Leonard utilizes the program for her classes. The program allows her to provide students with supplemental materials along with assignment sheets and workbooks.

"This allows them to have a website with all the materials used in the classroom," Leonard said outsider her algebra class on Tuesday.

The technology has also allowed Leonard to evaluate her students' writing skills, a major change in a mathematics class.

"With mathematics, we never give students enough opportunity to explain their work," Leonard said.

Since the inception of the Google Classroom program, Leonard said upsides to the teaching method.

"It takes away the concept that learning only occurs in the classroom and gives students the opportunity to learn when they need to learn," Leonard said.

Paper and pencil are still staples in the classroom, Leonard said, and there are drawbacks for teachers and students.

"There are times when it takes me longer to grade or the Internet doesn't work for the day, so I have to have backup resources," Leonard said. "Not all students have Internet at home, but the school has been very good about providing it on an individual basis."

The benefits still seem to appear high, especially for the teachers.

"It creates an opportunity to be more in check with our online world," Leonard said. "The students live in an online world already and we have to be able meet their modality of learning."

Houck agreed, noting the high school will continue expanding the program.

"The more teachers and students that can take advantage of Google Classroom, the better the collaboration will be," Houck said.