National Education Technology Plan 2004
Success Stories from Schools That Are Leading the Way
In 1994, the Chugach School District (CSD) in south central Alaska was failing by almost all measures: staff turnover exceeded 50 percent; students scored lowest in the state on California Achievement Tests; business leaders complained that graduates lacked basic skills; and only one student in 26 years had graduated from college.
The school board and district leaders proposed radical changes. The district eliminated grade levels as measures of progress and adopted a standards-based system with levels of mastery that emphasize real-life learning situations. Each student has a learning plan based on his or her learning patterns and needs, and must demonstrate proficiency in 10 areas of performance.
Chugach uses technology to enhance student learning, to improve student technology skills, and to improve the efficiency of its academic and administrative operations. Overall student use of the Internet increased from 5 percent in 1998 to 93 percent in 2001.
Results have been dramatic. On the California Achievement Test reading scores rose from the 28th percentile in 1995 to the 71st percentile in 1999; mathematics scores increased from 54th to 78th; and language arts scores from 26th to 72nd. Fourteen CSD graduates are now attending post-secondary institutions. Annual faculty turnover has dropped from more than 50 percent to 12 percent.
Recently, the Chugach district led the formation of the Alaska Quality Schools Coalition and 12 districts are replicating its model. In 2001, the district was the smallest organization ever to receive the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award for performance excellence in education.42
In the fall of 2002, Poway Unified School District in the suburbs of San Diego rolled out Total Information Management System (TIM), enabling teachers to log in to view a class and drill down to a student profile. The data warehouse pulls relevant data from the student information system, human resources, special education, student assessment, and delivers up-to-date, on-command information to the teacher. Teachers can filter by period, course or any of the NCLB filters such as ethnicity, gender, or second language learners to compare achievement and identify strengths and weaknesses. The profiles have current and historical data as well as contact information for the student and parents, and e-mail links to other teachers. With this tool, teachers can use the data to drive instructional practices – something that was not possible in the past.
Instructional Technology Specialist Stacey Campo trains teachers throughout the district to make effective use of this information and provides feedback to the information systems division. Charlie Garten, who directs the information systems division, and project leader Tracy Jones involved teachers and students in each stage of development. TIM is helping all teachers apply differentiated instruction to improve learning for all of their students.43
High Tech High (HTH) in San Diego used a Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation grant and funding from the San Diego technology business community to start a charter school from scratch. Since its launch in September 2000, the school has been an innovation leader in using technology and grounding learning in the "real world." Student internships with area businesses are built into the schedule and students use technology to conduct biotechnology lab experiments, build robots and produce sophisticated school projects. Its 400 students are from diverse ethnic and economic backgrounds and last year 100 percent of HTH seniors were accepted into college. Under Principal and CEO Larry Rosenstock's leadership, technology and intellectual rigor are central to the educational experience at HTH – a learning experience in an environment which is open to the real world and fosters connections to the community.
The school's innovations include performance-based assessment, daily shared planning time for staff, state-of-the-art technical facilities for project-based learning, internships for all students, and close links to the high-tech workplace.
The Florida Virtual School, whose motto is "anytime, any place, any path, any pace," grew out of a $200,000 state-level "Break the Mold" grant. The threefold aim was to relieve the strain of overcrowded schools in the fast-growing Florida districts; to meet the demands for high-needs courses; and to make advanced courses available to students throughout the state's 32 rural districts.
Founded in 1997, the state-funded institution serves 21,270 student enrollments and employs 150 full-time and part-time teachers. Experienced teachers monitor the progress of all students and are available to students by telephone or e-mail.
Ninety-seven percent of the school's students take only one or two courses to fill a need not met in their own schools. Minorities make up some 30 percent of enrollment. The students come from public schools (72 percent), home schooling (21 percent), and private or charter schools (7 percent). The majority of students are from Florida, but there are students from many other states and even as far away as Shanghai.
Peabody Elementary School in St Louis is situated in an urban neighborhood marked by abandoned buildings and serves almost entirely Title I students from the lowest income families. Principal Myrtle Reed had high expectations and through online assessments and customized instruction over three years achieved remarkable improvement in students' scores on Missouri Assessment Program (MAP) standardized tests.
Reed selected the eMINTS program — enhancing Missouri's Instructional Networked Teaching Strategies — which provides 200 hours of professional development, coaching and technical support for teachers as they use multimedia tools to promote critical thinking and problem-solving techniques.
Peabody students take regular online assessments of their progress, allowing teachers to customize instruction to the specific needs of individual students. Teachers assign online reading instruction software and online tutoring programs based on individual student's level of mastery of the curriculum. Working on desktop computers, students proceed at their own pace.
Using a technology-rich environment, instruction is personalized. Teachers and principals know exactly how students are doing on a daily basis.
The results have been dramatic. In 2001, only 7 percent of Peabody third graders could read at grade level. A year later, the number improved to 25 percent. In 2003, 80 percent of third graders were reading on grade level. Similar stunning results occurred in mathematics, science and social studies.
The success of the program was recognized by an $8.4 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education that will help create additional eMINTS training and technology in classrooms. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch commented that the turnabout at Peabody would have been remarkable for any school, but was particularly impressive "in a neighborhood where virtually every child is poor, a fact that too often translates into low expectations and rock-bottom test scores." The eMINTS program is now available to schools nationwide.
Henrico County, a suburban and rural district with 43,000 students and 3,000 teachers in 64 schools, supplied every high school student their own laptop computer. In Spring 2001, all high school faculty received a laptop computer. In Fall 2002, all middle school students and elementary school teachers received laptops, and in Winter 2002, all middle school teachers received laptops. A primary goal of the initiative was to create an environment of engaged and active learning, rather than the simple didactic approach. Henrico County paid for this laptop program by repurposing existing funds, as well as using lease agreements. Currently, 28,000 laptops are deployed in Henrico County. What makes this effort extraordinary is that they have done this with $500 less than the state average annual per-pupil expenditure and $611 less than the national average.
In 1994, there were significant numbers of elementary schools that did not have a single computer lab, and the total technology deployment in the district was relatively sparse, consisting primarily of one or two computer labs per middle and high school. In 1998, 5 percent of students used the Internet; today all middle and high school students are online.
What is remarkable is what students can do with the technology, curricula and good instruction. They are accessing primary sources, exploring different perspectives on historical events, using geometry simulations in three dimensions to learn mathematics and increasing their interactions with teachers and other students online. Assessments are online and provide instant feedback. Art history courses take virtual field trips to art galleries worldwide.
Henrico offers all students the opportunity to take online courses through their laptops – advanced mathematics and science, foreign languages and other courses – as well as SAT test-prep courses. Individual Education Plans (IEPs) are online and save teachers time and effort while enabling updated information.
The success of this initiative would not have been possible without direct teacher training and support. Demonstrating their commitment to life-long learning, Henrico County Public Schools provides a $1,000 per year tuition reimbursement for eligible employees. Additional institutes were scheduled and taught by master teachers to ensure that the faculty received the training needed to successfully use technology as an instructional tool.
Among the numerous awards Henrico has received: The U.S. Senate Award for Continuing Excellence and nine U.S. Department of Education Blue Ribbon School awards.44