It is a phrase you often hear in the halls of our elementary schools or see sprawled across a banner in Mooresville High School. It is our motto: Every child, Every day. And as Superintendent ofMooresville Graded School District, in North Carolina, it is a motto that guides every decision I make – especially the most difficult ones.
When I returned to being superintendent in 2007 after working in the private sector, I realized that we were relying on an outdated model of education, inside and outside the classroom. We had perfected a system of teaching and educating that was not effective at preparing students for the 21st century.
So, we made a difficult decision. We adopted a new system using digital resources as our primary curriculum model. We gave all students from third through twelfth grades a laptop and trained all teachers in a new digital curriculum. We enlisted help from every corner of the community – parents, teachers, and the business community— and were lucky enough to find eager partners who were willing to support our efforts to transform our schools.
We like to think that we enhanced the “art” of teaching and introduced the “science” necessary to help us address today’s global challenges. Through this new curriculum, teachers and administrators have access to data about each grade, classroom and student. This data helps us refine our lessons, shape our curriculum choices and guide our budget decisions.
A group of visitors recently asked a third grader how he was doing. “Let me show you,” he said, as he pulled up a reading progress report. “This line going up, that‘s me and, see where it turns blue, that‘s where I’m going.” Our students can now monitor their own work and they have embraced the responsibility.
Our decision to “go digital” shows encouraging results: Our graduation rate has jumped from 77 percent to 90 percent, and we are now ranked second in North Carolina in academic achievement.
When I speak with educators and administrators from other districts about our successes, I am always adamant about one thing: It’s not just about the technology. This is about more than putting computers in the hands of young people, more than giving teachers access to data. It’s aboutfundamentally rethinking education and creating a new culture of instruction that ignites an interest in learning.
The program has united teachers, parents and students in ways we never imagined. In more than 30 years of working in public education, I have never seen parents and teachers so engaged in the process. Teachers converse with students after school and on weekends via online message boards and parents follow classroom assignments and research. There is a collaborative hum throughout Mooresville and it is paying huge dividends.
Recently in a history class at Mooresville High School, a student showed the class her project on the Revolutionary War. It integrated digital resources with dynamic historical information. When asked if it took long to make, she said, “I spent a lot of time on it, but I loved working on it and I worked on it for fun.”
Today’s young people will inhabit a vastly different world from the one most educators grew up in. And it is our responsibility to prepare them for their future, not our past. In Mooresville it is our hope that by closing the digital divide, we are also narrowing the opportunity divide and providing every child, every day with the tools and the environment that will best position him or her for whatever challenges lie ahead.
Dr. Mark Edwards currently serves as superintendent of the Mooresville Graded School District (MGSD) in Mooresville, NC, and was named the North Carolina Superintendent of the Year for 2013 and the 2013 Superintendent of the Year by the American Association of School Administrators. He is the author of Every Child, Every Day: A Digital Conversion Model for Student Achievement.