According to a recent article in The Notebook, "the SDP ranked second from the bottom in the average age of its computers: just over five years." As a recent transplant employee, I can attest to that being absolutely true. The last school I worked at - The Academy at Palumbo - had a computer lab with iMacs from 2010/2011 that worked fairly well - but has not been upgraded since. When I transferred from the High School of the Future in 2011, the laptops they had were already two years old and I believe they have had to make compromises on their 1:1 program for financial reasons.
The article does show some strengths of the systems at SDP: "The Philadelphia District ranks number one among Council of the Great City Schools in network bandwidth, which determines the speed at which the Internet is delivered to a computer. Every classroom is Internet-ready and all have high-speed wireless – Wi-Fi – as well." This was also true in my tenure in the District, albeit with some issues of network downtime as is normal in a large organization. Other comparison can be seen here.
The one major criticism I have that comes from the large financial strain the District has been under is the replacement technology they have had to order because it is cheaper: Chromebooks.
These devices - while wonderful for Internet usage and online app usage - do not have the power or capability to run higher-level software that students need. During my first round of laptop fundraising in 2011, I originally wanted to order Chromebooks at a reduced rate so that I could get more of them. I soon realized that I would not be able to run programs like Microsoft Excel, Geometer's Sketchpad, or Google Sketchup/Earth that I wanted to use in my classroom. Nowadays, I have a similar program, but it is for 3D modeling programs like 123D Design and Autodesk Inventor.
Yes, they are an inexpensive solution and can do quite a lot (especially in a District with little else), but if SDP relies on them too heavily over the next few years, it will be doing itself and its students a disservice.
Here are two other articles with more information on the current technology situation in the School District of Philadelphia.
- Here's what it takes to run the Philadelphia School Distirct's IT network
- Assistive technology is a needed tool in the city's resource-starved schools