School system’s 2016 plan raises bar for local education

Feb. 25, 2013 @ 10:37 AM

For Guilford County Schools Superintendent Mo Green, reaching higher to his new district goals includes several ambitious plans.
At the top of the list is personalized learning. 
Green set the goals in his 2016 Strategic Plan. The Board of Education approved the plan, a renewal of the 2102 program, earlier this month.
Overall, the plan sets higher bars for improving public opinion of the district, turning around low-performing schools, graduating more students and offering more choices for students and parents.
“The 2016 Strategic Plan strengthens our mission to ensure that all students are prepared for college or the career of their choice,” Green said during his State of Our Schools presentation last month.
Meanwhile, school officials still are working on the rollout of a $30 million technology initiative that aims to get closer to the day when all students will use digital devices to learn in the classroom and at home.
Green has pointed to Montlieu Elementary Academy of Technology in High Point as a model of what tablet-assisted learning can do to boost performance. Montlieu Academy, where students use iPads, has achieved a 9 percent gain in literacy, an 11 percent boost in math and a 25 percent gain in science. Students also use the tablets for drawing and coloring.
“We want to get this kind of technology into all the schools, but we know the funding to do this is enormous,” Green said during a recent visit to Montlieu Academy with U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan.
Nearly 17,000 students in the district’s 24 middle schools will receive tablet computers over the next two years. But so far, several school board members have disagreed with the random selection of 16 middle schools to get tablets next year. The board is waiting on word from the U.S.Department of Education on whether as many as three schools can be added to the random list.
“You should give tablets to all 24 schools,” Richard Rowland, a consultant with experience in Louisiana and Virginia schools, warned the school board during a recent meeting. “You don’t know all the problems you will get into.”
Despite the tangled bureaucratic process to get started, officials have confidence in the learning plan.
“I think Montlieu will tell us what is next to do as we go through this,” Green said at the school.
The plan also calls for creating a standalone virtual school for middle and high school students. The school could offer over computer networks most of the courses high school students need to graduate. The district will spend  $1.6 million from a federal grant to get the program started. Four teachers will supervise the program.
“It can’t be all virtual,” Green acknowledged.
Parents will have access to digital devices to help them keep up with their students and to explore learning opportunities for themselves.
STEM:  A greater emphasis on science, technology, engineering and math education also is a top goal. The district will build on the successful programs from elementary to high schools and district academies to help students find good jobs in the new economy, Green said.
Schools emphasizing STEM have produced some of the highest performing students and highest graduation rates in the district.
Academic Goals: Officials want more students taking and passing Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate or college-level classes. The district reported that 580 students who graduated in 2012 had passed five or more college-level courses.
The district will open a six-week summer program this year that helps elementary school students improve their reading skills. One district focus has been African-American males. Only 48 percent of black male third-graders could read at the right level in 2011, according to the district.
“There is a lot work for us to do in this area,” Green said. “But we know we can do this work, and we can achieve great things.”
Meanwhile, SAT scores have continued a steady decline. Guilford County’s 2012 average combined score on critical reading math dropped from 977 to 964.
“This is not good and is unacceptable to me,” Green said.
The plan proposes more rigorous courses.
Increased arts integration is planned for the curriculum, as well as a strengthened focus on cultural relevance and unbiased learning. The district will offer increased character development opportunities and recognition programs, as well as more emphasis on the social and emotional well-being of students.
 

Personalized learning

New office: A new Instructional Technology and Innovation Division will oversee the Guilford personal learning initiative. A director will be paid $103,000. A federal grant will pay staff expenses for much of the new department.

Strategies: Expand tablet-based learning to more schools as funds become available

2016 Plan: Read the 2016 strategic plan at: www.gcsnc.com/strategicplan2016