Measuring Success in a SMART Way
By Kelly Medinger
St. Elizabeth School uses education grant to purchase SMART Boards
The hallways of St. Elizabeth School bustle with activity as students return to class after lunch in the cafeteria. In some ways, it seems like a typical school, but in other ways, it feels more special than that.
A Special Place
St. Elizabeth School, a ministry sponsored by the Sisters of St. Francis of Assisi, opened in 1961. Today, the School serves 120 students in the Baltimore metro area, ages 6-21, who have been diagnosed with disabilities such as autism, traumatic brain injury, emotional disabilities, intellectual disabilities, orthopedic or other physical impairments, or multiple disabilities.
“Every child with special needs deserves an appropriate education, and at St. Elizabeth School, we do more than that,” affirms Christine Manlove, Ed.D., Executive Director. Oftentimes students have struggled in other environments but flourish at St. Elizabeth, benefiting from skilled teaching, onsite clinical and therapeutic services, integrated use of assistive technology, a robust workforce development and transition program, and above all, an atmosphere of mutual respect and a sense of belonging.
Investing in SMART Infrastructure
The Knott Foundation has awarded St. Elizabeth School more than $100,000 over the past decade for capital needs, academic programs, and technology purchases. Most recently, the School received a $45,000 grant to install SMART Boards in seven classrooms, which advanced their focus on integrating technology to improve students’ learning experience.
Witnessing a lesson on the SMART Board, it is clear that the interactive animation and instant feedback that the SMART Board offers captivates the students. “Hearing automatic applause in front of the whole class when choosing the right answer is uplifting and encouraging,” Dr. Manlove observes. “It’s different than a teacher simply saying ‘right answer’ or ‘good job.’”
St. Elizabeth approached measuring the impact of the SMART Boards in their classrooms in a unique way. Through pre- and post- surveys, and comparisons to behavioral incident reports filed through the national School-Wide Information Systems (SWIS) database, they were able to observe measurable improvements in both student behavior and time devoted to educational tasks when the SMART Boards were in operation.
For example, when a SMART Board is being used in the classroom, the number of behavior incident reports decreases by 28.5%. And better behavior means more time focused on task. St. Elizabeth estimates that they earn back nearly seven educational days from the use of the SMART Boards over the course of an academic year.
Dr. Manlove concludes: “Without technology, our students would be isolated from the world in so many ways. No one would know how brilliant they are. Technology has allowed us to give them the tools they need to realize their full potential.”