Districts Navigate the Era of Artificial Intelligence

In November of last year, many district leaders, including Danny Robertozzi, superintendent of Clifton Public Schools (CPS) in New Jersey, quickly banned ChatGPT on school devices, fearing the impact it would have on education. “We have to stop this. This will be the end of education as we know it,” Robertozzi expressed.

However, by spring 2023, it became apparent that artificial intelligence was here to stay. Teachers and students in Robertozzi’s district began requesting access to AI tools, leading him to reconsider and question whether he was doing them a disservice by not allowing them to experiment with this powerful technology. Ultimately, Robertozzi and other district leaders decided to change their stance.

For CPS, this meant allowing limited teacher use of select AI tools with the future goal of expanding access to students once more is understood about the potential risks surrounding issues like cheating, data privacy, and copyright liability. Janina Kusielewicz, the assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction at CPS, stated, “We want to be open, yet vigilant.”

On the other hand, Baldwinsville Public Schools (BPS) in Central New York took a different approach and fully embraced AI technology. They provided professional development sessions for their staff to explore classroom applications, formed a team of teachers to actively test AI, and introduced introductory lessons on generative AI to eighth and ninth graders at the start of the school year. Renee Burnett, the assistant superintendent for curriculum, instruction, and assessment at BPS, emphasized the importance of preparing students for a future where AI is prevalent and ubiquitous. She stated, “We need to be ready.”

These diverging attitudes among districts reflect the ongoing struggle district leaders face as they navigate the integration of rapidly evolving AI technology into their schools. While cautious steps are currently being taken, it is increasingly clear that AI software will become an integral part of school workflows in the future. Reluctant school systems must confront the challenge of ensuring that AI is used responsibly, ethically, and legally.

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