Friday, February 22, 2013

Mooresville’s Miracle Launched by Community, Edwards Says

Mooresville’s Miracle Launched by Community, Edwards Says

by Francesca Martens

Mark Edwards, superintendent in Mooresville,
 N.C., spoke at an AASA  conference session on
 digital conversion for student achievement.

In a school The New York Times referred to as the “de facto national model” for K-12 technology deployments, it may be surprising digital technologies come last.
“If the focus is on the devices, it’s misunderstood,” Mark Edwards, superintendent of the Mooresville, N.C., Graded School District, told attendees at his AASA conference session Friday on digital conversion for student achievement.
In order for an overarching initiative like Mooresville’s to work, it must be buttressed by a student-centered school and an engaged and informed community, said Edwards, who was named one day earlier the 2013 National Superintendent of the Year.
When Edwards began to rally support for the initiative at Mooresville five years ago, he started by holding community forums and meetings and asking attendees, asking anyone who would listen, “What do we want for the future of our children?” The answer, Edwards convinced them, lay in giving children the digital resources that a 21st century workplace would require.
“We are poverty stricken in understanding the importance of professional development in education,” Edwards stated before citing statistics in which 90 percent of current high school students in the United States said the work they did at school had no relevance to their lives or their future. “We need students doing things that matter to them outside.”
With this idea in mind, Edwards embarked on an ambitious goal to digitalize his entire school district in spite of it being working class and with average funding.
In North Carolina, Mooresville is one of the lowest-funded districts -- 108th out of 115 districts.
“If we can afford it, anyone can,” Edwards poignantly joked before suggesting attendees refer to his new book, Every Child, Every Day, in which he devoted an entire chapter to the process of financing Mooresville’s technological initiative.
All students from K-12 were given laptops, provided with 24/7 online content and wireless internet was made ubiquitous within the school as well as other community buildings in Mooresville such as libraries and community centers.
Five years after the initiative begun, the results are obvious to all who visit the school.
“When visitors to the school asked the 3rd-grade students how they’re doing, they said, ‘Let me show you how I’m doing,’ and they pulled it [a progress report] up on their laptops and said, ‘Okay, what do you want to know, math, reading or science?’
These students, the superintendent claimed, are designing their trajectory. They see their work in school as part of their culture.
In order to achieve this, Mooresville shifted from a traditional teacher-centered model to a student-centered one that prioritizes the children’s material, intellectual and emotional needs.
“Children need to have a sense of care and love,” Edwards expressed. However, Mooresville’s student-centered policy does not mean exclusion for the adults.
In the Mooresville schools, the adults are integral in the success of the program. “Competency is evolution,” Edwards stressed. “We have started doctoral cohorts, master cohorts and summer conferences . . . they [teachers and staff] have learning throughout the year.”
“We have an ‘All In’” policy where every adult and student counts and is counted on in a major way,” Edwards shared and that seems to be the key to creating an educational model the rest of the nation is eager to follow.

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