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Top Clayton School Official Defends Controversial Laptop Program

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Clayton County’s school board has finalized a plan to trim about $12 million from next year’s budget, but a controversial new laptop program remains.

As WABE previously reported, OddysseyWare is set up as an alternative form of instruction for Clayton’s hardest-to-teach middle and high school students.

Each kid gets a laptop and they’re expected to go home and complete online courses. Middle school students are required to spend four hours a day with teachers, but high school students have no such requirement.   

Critics say the program isolates students and strips them of a real education. But Board Chairwoman Pam Adamson doesn’t see it that way.

“In the old alternative school model, the kids slept most of the day. There were huge discipline problems. It was not conducive to learning in the least.” 

Adamson says the group of less than 100 students needed a new approach. She says they were too disruptive in a classroom setting.

“We’re hoping that using technology, which kids love, and being able to set their own pace…and if they don’t get up in the morning that’s okay, they can work in the afternoon.  So it gives them a little more flexibility and you say they don’t need more flexibility, but in the classroom they demand flexibility.”

Adamson says end-of-the-year reports were positive, but she couldn’t point to any hard data. She says WABE’s reporting is the first she’s heard of complaints.

Sid Chapman, who represents many of the area’s teachers for the Clayton County Education Association, says the program is setting up students to fail. He says these kids need more special attention, not less.  

“You’re already having trouble in the classroom and you’re going to give me a computer and tell me to do my homework… It’s takes a lot of discipline if you don’t have a set class time to make yourself do it.”

Adamson argues that at any point students can make an appointment with a teacher, but she acknowledges the program requires a certain amount of personal responsibility. 

“[These students] don’t fit in the traditional molds. They’re tired of school, they’re defeated in school, and they want out. But if we give them an option and if indeed they are willing to work, they can be very successful.”

Adamson says she fully supports the laptop program and will continue to do so.