FCPSOn – Cost, Failure, and Harm



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8/11/2019

FCPSOn – Cost, Failure, and Harm

By Phong Nguyen

Fairfax County Public Schools will start the digital initiative, called FCPSOn, for the academic year 2019-2020 with the provision of a laptop to every high school student in Fairfax County.
FCPS's justification is that the initiative provides students equal access to technology, helps the students in the development of their communication, collaboration and critical thinking, and gives them the skills to meet the demands of tomorrow's workforce.
Despite the justification, there are many concerns regarding the real outcomes of FCPSOn such as cost, low achievement, and harmful health effects.
Part one of three-part commentary
What is the cost to Fairfax County taxpayers and the families of Fairfax Public School students?
Fairfax County School Board has set aside $4.3 million Dollars for fiscal year 2020 budget. $4.3 million Dollars is an annually recurring cost to provide laptops to high school students starting in 2019-2020 school year. FCPS's plan to provide a laptop to each student does not stop at high school level. For 2020-2021 school year, each middle school student will get a laptop. For 2021-2022 school year, each student from 5th to 6th grade will get a laptop. For 2022-2023 school year, each student from 3rd to 4th grade will get a laptop.




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By 2022, the estimate annual cost for providing a laptop to every student from 3rd to 12th grade will triple the amount set aside in 2020 budget – about $13 million Dollars.
For the students who already have their own computer/laptop, why should they be required to have another computer – a laptop that is provided by FCPS?
According to TJToday, the online newspaper of Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology, implementing FCPSOn makes little sense since most students already have access to better computers inside and outside of school.
For the students who cannot afford a computer, they can receive good refurbished computers or laptops for free from Virginia Star Program. FCPS is already collaborating with Virginia Star. In reality, Virginia Star is giving the low income students equal access to technology.



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According to the Hechinger Report, Hoboken school district in New Jersey abandoned one-to-one laptop program because it was financially unsustainable.
Therefore, FCPSOn is a redundant and wasteful program.

Part two of three-part commentary
Fairfax County Public Schools will start its digital initiative, called FCPSOn, for the academic year 2019-2020 with the provision of a laptop to every high school students in Fairfax County.
FCPS's justification is that the initiative provides students equal access to technology, helps the students in the development of their communication, collaboration and critical thinking, and gives them the skills to meet the demands of tomorrow's workforce.
Despite the justification, there are many concerns regarding the real outcomes of FCPSON such as cost, low academic achievement, and harmful health effects.



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Do computers in the classrooms improve students' academic performance?
In 2010, Computer Scientist Alan Kay, one of the foremost experts in computers in schools, stated that technology in education has largely failed…... and computers have become tools of distraction instead of education.
According to an article from The Guardian, dated May 11, 2016, a research paper published by Massachusetts Institute of Technology found that students barred from using laptops or digital devices in lectures and seminars did better in their exams than those allowed to use computers and access the internet. The researchers suggested that removing laptops and iPads from classes was the equivalent of improving the quality of teaching.


    
   
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According to an article from npr.org, dated August 18, 2017, after a decade and a half, and at a cost of about $12 million annually, Maine has yet to see any measurable increases on statewide standardized test scores. Maine's governor, Paul LePage, called the program a "massive failure."
According to an article, dated May 21, 2019, in The Baltimore Sun, in 2014the [Baltimore County] school system began rolling out a $147 million technology initiative that gave students from first to 12th grade access to a laptop. Despite the saturation of technology, Baltimore County ranks near the bottom of the state in passing rates on standardized tests. The scores are generally flat for students in grades three through eight, many of whom have had the computers for at least three years.
https://www.baltimoresun.com/education/bs-md-co-laptop-changes-20190517-story.html

Based on experience, studies, and history, FCPSOn, like many other digital initiatives across the country, will become a costly failure for Fairfax County taxpayers and the families of Fairfax County Public School students.


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Part three of three-part commentary

Fairfax County Public Schools will start its digital initiative, called FCPSOn, for the academic year 2019-2020 with the provision of a laptop to every high school students in Fairfax County.
FCPS's justification is that the initiative provides students equal access to technology, helps the students in the development of their communication, collaboration and critical thinking, and gives them the skills to meet the demands of tomorrow's workforce.
Despite the justification,there are many concerns regarding the real outcomes of FCPSON such as cost, low academic achievement, and harmful health effects.
What are the health effects of exposure to technology in schools?

With the implementation of the digital initiative, young students will be using the laptops in school for classroom instructions and after school for homework. They will be using the laptops in excess of seven hours each day despite the American Academy of Pediatrics' recommendation, which limits total screen time to two hours a day for children from 3 years-old to 18-year-old. Children’s brains are much more sensitive to electronics use. Research has linked excessive screen time to school problems, aggression and other behavioral issues. The “sensory overload” causes kids to have poor focus and depletes their mental energy, which often leads to anger and explosive behavior. Kids become overstimulated and “revved up,” and they may have a difficult time managing stress and regulating their mood.


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Excessive screen-time appears to impair brain structure and function. Much of the damage occurs in the brain’s frontal lobe, which undergoes massive changes from puberty until the mid-twenties.
Furthermore, according to an article in The Epoch Times, dated March 19, 2019, today, students are trading notebooks and textbooks for laptops, cellphones, iPads, and all manner of “smart” devices connected to a potent wireless infrastructure that lets them be used virtually anywhere on school grounds. Dr. Martin Pall, Professor Emeritus of biochemistry and basic medical sciences at Washington State University made a grave case about the dangers involved in his paper, “Wi-Fi is an Important Threat to Human Health,” published in the July 2018 issue of Environmental Research. According to Dr. Pall, the placement of Wi-Fi into schools around the country may well be a high-level threat to the health of our children as well being a threat to teachers and any very sensitive fetuses teachers may be carrying. Children are more susceptible to the disease processes that wireless radiation has been consistently shown to cause: oxidative stress (which can lead to cancer and non-cancerous conditions, as well as DNA damage), sperm and testicular damage, neuropsychiatric effects, cell death, changes to the endocrine system, and calcium overload.


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Dr. Hugh Taylor, a professor and chair of obstetrics, gynecology, and reproductive sciences at Yale University, has shown that fetal exposure to wireless radiation affects neuro-development and behavior and can lead to Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)— a condition that has doubled in the past 10 years.
Harvard Medical School professor and a pediatric neurologist at Massachusetts General Hospital, Dr. Martha Herbert, makes a compelling argument that the rise in autism spectrum disorders may also be related to our rise in wireless radiation exposure. Her 60-page report from 2012 reveals several similarities between symptoms known to occur with wireless radiation and biological manifestations in autism, such as cellular stress, tissue damage, protein misfolding, and injury of membranes. She states that while the brains of children with autism may be most vulnerable to microwave radiation, every brain is at the mercy of its influence. In her warning letter to the Los Angeles Unified School District in 2013, she cited thousands of papers that have accumulated over decades which document adverse health and neurological impacts of electromagnetic frequency and radio frequency radiation (EMF/RFR). She wrote “EMF/RFR from Wi-Fi and cell towers can exert a disorganizing effect on the ability to learn and remember, and can also be destabilizing to immune and metabolic function. This will make it harder for some children to learn, particularly those who are already having problems in the first place.”






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Comments


(@Anonymous)
 
Is anyone else really bothered by the fact that FCPS decided all the students need computers, so they are going to issue all the high school students a computer and we are going to have to pay $50 a computer? I have 5 computers in my house. I don't want to pay for one more. What about people with multiple kids? Are they paying hundreds now? Maybe it's just me.... 

Dear Parent or Guardian, 

FCPSOn, our digital transformation initiative, will expand to all Fairfax County public high schools starting with the 2019-20 school year, pending the adoption of FCPS’ FY 2020 Advertised Budget. FCPSOn provides equitable access to technology and to instructional practices that support students' development of Portrait of a Graduate attributes. 
As part of the initiative, all high school students will be issued a laptop for learning at school and at home. An annual technology support fee of $50 will be charged to high school students. This fee will help ensure students have access to the technology they need by defraying the cost to repair and replace equipment, ensuring all students have the necessary laptops for testing, and providing back-up laptops as a substitute as needed. All students will need access to the same software, which might not be compatible with self-provided laptops. (See link to website below for FAQs.) The technology support fee is included in the FY 2020 Advertised Budget. 
Students who have Free and Reduced status and have given consent to share their FRM status for a waiver or reduction of the technology support fee will be charged $25 for Reduced status; the fee will be waived for Free status. 
Laptops will be issued to students starting in August 2019. Parents will be invoiced for the technology support fee in November 2019 via Myschoolbucks.com. Special arrangements can be made for parents who would prefer to pay the fee in person. Please visit FCPS' website to learn more about FCPSOn. 


Fairfax County Public Schools





(@Anonymous)

I don’t see why FCPS is trying this in the first place. It’s a waste of money.

(@Anonymous)

I’d worry about them tracking your kids usage. What if your kid tries to view porn? 

What a waste of taxpayer dollars.

(@Anonymous)

No way would I want a school issue and controlled computer. I fully support them giving free computers to those who cannot afford it but if you require it, I'll supply ours. For $50 a year, over several years its cheaper to buy.

(@Anonymous)

We have too many electronic devices in this house as it is. I’d like to know if there is an option to refuse. I took away the laptop last night (again) because it wasn’t actually being used for homework.

(@Anonymous)

Here is the response I received from FCPS when I asked about this new $50 charge: 

Thank you for your inquiry. The FCPSOn annual technology support fee of $50 is to help defray the costs of maintaining, repairing and replacing equipment, as well as supporting and maintaining laptops for student testing and other student needs. The fee is not used for testing supplies. It is an annual support fee of $50 per student per year, and is non-refundable. Students who have Free and Reduced status and have given consent to share their FRM status for a waiver or reduction of the technology support fee will be charged $25 for Reduced status. The fee will be waived for Free status. No other discounts are available. The student will be required to turn in the device at the end of each school year. 

You may decline to have your student take an FCPS-issued laptop home if you wish to provide your own equivalent laptop instead. The personally-owned device must be a laptop equivalent, with a screen and keyboard, and must be compatible with Google Apps for Education, Microsoft Office, FCPS-approved internet browsers that support web-based applications, and the school Wi-Fi network. Smartphones are not an acceptable substitution. School tech support will not be available for personally-owned devices. FCPS instructional applications are not licensed for installation on personally-owned devices. While many of our instructional software programs are web-based and would be accessible with a personal laptop (e.g. FCPS 24-7 Blackboard, Google Apps for Education), some applications may require local installation on the laptop. FCPS licensing agreements do not permit installation on personal devices, so parents would need to assume responsibility for acquiring and installing those applications on a personally-owned laptop. Before making the decision to opt-out of the FCPS-issued device, we recommend having a conversation with your school's principal to further understand the considerations and requirements for your student's learning experience. 

Students who wish to provide their own laptop in place of an FCPS-issued laptop will complete and return a signed Substitution of a Personal Device form by September 30, to their school's technology team. Once a signed form has been submitted, you will not be charged the fee for that year. This form must be re-submitted each year. The parental agreement will be available in the fall for the 2019-2020 school year on the "Substitution for a Personal Device" section of our website. Please note that all students will be required to take SOL's and some other online assessments on the FCPS-issued device, per state regulations.


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