Academic journal article T H E Journal (Technological Horizons In Education)

1-to-1: Bar None: Mooresville, NC's Four-Year Path to a Districtwide Laptop Program Led to Across-the-Board Academic Achievement and This Year's Sylvia Charp Award

Academic journal article T H E Journal (Technological Horizons In Education)

1-to-1: Bar None: Mooresville, NC's Four-Year Path to a Districtwide Laptop Program Led to Across-the-Board Academic Achievement and This Year's Sylvia Charp Award

Article excerpt

THE MOORESVILLE GRADED SCHOOL DISTRICT may rank 100th out of 115 North Carolina school districts in per-pupil spending. It might serve a community where 40 percent of its students are eligible for free or reduced lunches. Nevertheless, since the initiation of a progressive digital conversion program four years ago, Mooresville has risen from 38th on the list of the state's "Schools of Distinction" to No. 3 in 2011. End-of-term composite test scores at Mooresville High School rose 21 percent during the same period, and 13 percent for third-graders across the district. Oh, and the district's dropout rate fell 54 percent.

The fact that MGSD was able to create one of the most successful 1-to-1 laptop computing programs in the United States--despite rough economic conditions--might qualify it as a Cinderella story all on its own, even without the accompanying academic success. It's one reason why this program and its impact on academic achievement earned the Mooresville district the 2012 Sylvia Charp Award.

But Mark Edwards wasn't thinking about the accolades--yet--when he stepped into his position as Mooresville's superintendent a little more than five years ago. Bound and determined to raise the bar of academic excellence at MGSD, Edwards saw a digital transition as a surefire gateway to improving academic performance and graduation rates, which were hovering near 65 percent when he arrived. Edwards had pulled off a sizable laptop program earlier at Henrico County Public Schools in Richmond, VA, so he had a vision of how he could take advantage of the 21st century technology that was available to turn things around at Mooresville.

According to Tom Greaves, CEO and cofounder of Project RED, a national education technology research and advocacy organization, of the nearly 3,000 US schools that can boast today of 1-to-1 computing programs, Mooresville is one district that has gotten it right.

"I don't know of another school district that is doing what Mooresville has done, or any other district has achieved the results that it has," says Greaves.

Technological Transformation

A modest community 20 miles north of Charlotte, Mooresville's relatively small school district serves 5,590 K-12 students with the help of 700 employees in eight schools: three elementary, two intermediate, one middle, one high school and one technology and learning center.

Walk into almost any of the district's classrooms and you'd be hard-pressed to find many students seated in straight rows at individual desks, working from textbooks or scribbling notes as a teacher lectures them from the front of the class. In Mooresville's classrooms, kids sit together at tables, their 11-inch MacBook Air laptop computers open in front of them as they work on in-class projects, learn at their own pace with digital coursework, or take exams.

Instead of being told to sit quietly and listen closely, students are free to search Google, watch interactive videos, conduct online research, and collaborate with one another on their various group assignments.

"I provide the students with a challenge where they're trying to solve some sort of problem or issue and they're in collaborative groups where I'm in the learning process with them," says Chris Gammon, a social studies teacher and assistant football coach at Mooresville Middle School. "I feel like the classroom is one big community now."

That is an apt description of what has developed in the Mooresville district over the past four years: a 1-to-1 computing program that put a laptop in the hands of 5,000 third. through 12th-graders and their teachers. Certainly, MGSD is not the first district to implement 1-to-1, but its success has earned it a reputation as a pioneer in the movement toward digitized, personalized learning.

But major transformations don't happen overnight or without a plan, so in 2007 Edwards and his leadership team set out to create a six-year strategy with goals focused on academic achievement, engagement, opportunity, and equity. …

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