Freshman Jillian Upshaw was completing an assignment on a Wilson computer, and everything seemed to be going fine. Then, for no apparent reason, the computer screen suddenly went black. She could not log back in.
“Two didn’t work, one was out of battery, and then the other ones kept on logging out in the middle,” she said. Upshaw’s experience is one that many Wilson students and teachers are familiar with.
Over the past three years, access to technology has decreased for students and faculty both in quantity and quality. The computers have worn down over time and are consistently in need of repair, while the student population continues to increase disproportionately.
Data Coordinator Joseph Bellino said that Wilson has only 140 computers available to students in the classroom, a significant decline from the 230 computers available three years ago. DCPS Central Office, not Wilson, is responsible for providing these computers. The computer shortage has a myriad of causes: some computers are lost to student vandalism, others are not able to withstand frequent use, and a few are given to staff in need of work computers.
“When computers are damaged, they’re taken out of service because no one seems to repair out-of-warranty computers in DCPS,” Bellino said. Part of the problem, Bellino contends, is that in DCPS they don’t have a system to regularly replace all of their technology, which was done every five years in school districts where he had worked in the past.
Social studies teacher Patrick Cassidy believes the lack of access to technology has limited his ability to conduct independent research in the classroom. “I generally don’t even go to sign out carts because in my previous years you would go and they would rarely be available. It’s helpful to give students the opportunity to discover learning as opposed to a lecture or taking notes.”
Science teacher Katherine Dougherty agrees, stating that the lack of available computers makes it difficult to use online simulations, virtual labs, Powerpoint, as well as other programs not fit for a cell phone. She attempted to get the biology team their own cart last year but was unable to due to lack of funding and DCPS regulations on technology.
DCPS did not respond to questions about this issue or their allocation of funds.
Career and Technical Education (CTE) teachers, such as Danielle Krafft and Angela Benjamin, have personal computer carts for their classrooms, which are provided by the DCPS CTE office. These carts are separate from those used by other classroom teachers and are only available to the teachers who received specific grants.