DETROIT (WWJ) – Detroit Public Schools is starting a new program that provides take-home Netbook computers for students in grades eight through 12.

DPS officials say the giveaway is part of an initiative to emphasize the value of continual attendance on Count Day, October 3, and every day following.

As part of the district’s Count Day incentives, several schools will begin distributing Netbooks, which are small laptop computers, to students on Wednesday. Distribution will continue each week throughout the month of October until roughly 19,000 Netbooks are distributed, providing students access to technology outside of the classroom.

Count Day was specifically selected to kick-off the take-home Netbook initiative to remind parents and students of the day’s significance.

DPS emergency manager Roy Roberts said attendance on Wednesday is extremely important as each student translates into state funding.

“There are many factors why attendance is important including financial, legal, and state reporting requirements. But the reason we’re most focused on getting children in school and making sure they are here every day is educational. For all of the efforts we’ve made to ensure that classroom instruction, technology and the most highly qualified teachers are in place, we’d be foolish to not work, with all of our might, to make sure that students receive a full day’s instruction, each and every day,” Roberts said in a statement.

The district’s new attendance theme: “First Day. Every Day. All Day.” has been proven successful with early attendance data exceeding previous years’ attendance rates. By the second day of the school year, the attendance rate had reached 85%, and that number increased to 90% by the start of the third week of school.

To date, the district has recorded more than 51,000 students, which is several hundred students above the anticipated enrollment amount for the 2012-2013 academic year. The adopted fiscal year 2012-13 budget is based on a fall term enrollment of 49,852.

The take-home Netbook program, along with an Individualized Learning Plan for every student and an Academic Blueprint for every parent, can further assist in making the connection for families between success in school and success in life, Roberts added.

DPS is also partnering with Internet Essentials from Comcast to ensure families are aware of a special low-cost home Internet service available to those qualifying for free- and reduced-price lunch.

The district’s goal in providing this service is to promote educational excellence not only during school hours, but also at home by facilitating resource sharing, innovation, and unlimited communication.

“Access to Netbooks will enable students to complete homework assignments, explore thousands of libraries, databases, and bulletin boards while exchanging messages with Internet users throughout the world in the comfort of their own homes,” Roberts said.

All Netbooks have LoJack tracking devices on them, and the Netbook devices are clearly marked with the DPS property logo. All parents were required to sign consent forms prior to the Netbooks being released to students.

As a proactive approach to control how students access and utilize the Internet, a student email system titled Gaggle has been programmed on each Netbook. Aside from being a student email provider, Gaggle has several popular features for communication and collaboration all within a safe, filtered, and controlled environment.

Gaggle’s collection of tools include Digital Lockers, Discussion Boards, Chat Rooms, Blogs, Profile Pages, Assignment Drop Boxes, Calendars, a Social Wall, GaggleTube, Zoho Docs and filtered texting, according to the program website.

Other Count Day initiatives include a full-school pizza party and raffles and prizes for students with perfect attendance during a 10-day period.

The district said they will hold an end-of-the-year event to honor the students with perfect attendance, along with an invited staff member who was impactful in each “perfect attendance” student’s teaching and learning.


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