Our View: The race is not over

Dec. 16, 2012 @ 01:11 AM

It was a great day Tuesday when officials announced that Guilford County Schools had won a $30 million grant from the federal Department of Education’s Race to the Top program. Of 372 applications filed for RTT funding, Guilford’s grant was one of just 16 awarded nationwide.
Guilford County Schools will use the funds to purchase electronic tablets for about 15,500 students in grades six through eight during the next four years. Converting from textbooks to electronic tablets for instructional purposes is part of the district’s Personalized Achievement and Curriculum Environment project, which involves the concept known as student-led learning.
Certainly, Guilford school leaders should be commended for coming up with an innovative idea for learning that was so intriguing it merited one of the largest grants awarded in RTT. The grant also was the largest single award ever won by Guilford County Schools. But this race to the top is not over.
In fact, this race really is just moving to another level with greater goals. It’s incumbent upon Guilford students, teachers and staff to use these new electronic tools and innovative instructional methods to accomplish the ultimate aim – higher student achievement.
Equipping students with digital electronics for study and learning instead of conventional textbooks is a concept that schools Superintendent Mo Green has envisioned since he came to Guilford County four years ago. Despite a tough climate for school funding the last few years, Green and others maintained that vision, instituting a pilot project at Montlieu Elementary Academy of Technology in High Point. Successes there surely helped win this funding for a bigger, broader program.
One of the key aspects of the Personalized Achievement and Curriculum Environment project is not the digital equipment itself, but the fact that the electronics will allow students to learn individually. Students will not be bound by conventional classroom group instructional methods. Those who need more time to grasp a concept will be able to take it. Students who comprehend material faster will be able to move on immediately to the next lesson instead of having to wait for the rest of the class to catch up.
The challenge now for students, teachers and staff is to put these new tools to work to enhance the individual student’s ability to achieve. In essence, Montlieu Elementary’s pilot project has expanded and expectations of student achievement are heightened. We’re excited about the potential.