National Award-Winning Districts Discuss Their Strategies for Improving Learning Opportunities for Every Child


At the Learning Counsel’s National Gathering in Dallas, three of the districts receiving top awards met in a panel to share their successes, their failures and their strategies for moving their districts along a digital transformation to enhance learning for every child.

In this gathering of top award winners, the panelists stopped to reflect on their proudest accomplishments. Skip Lee, Director of Curriculum at Anne Arundel County Public Schools in Annapolis, MD said, “I guess the place to start is with the people. We can't get anything done without their understanding and their shared vision for where we are going. We've literally transformed all our resources to a digital format, using our partners Classlink and Blackboard. The work was not easy. We had a number of folks who were married to their curriculum guides or their booklets and the things they have done for many, many years. And really, we were at a place where we were able to express how debilitating that was as opposed to freeing. And so that transformation that started in 2014 and continues today. It is really where I would say our, our biggest achievement is. In my school district, we are a Pre-K -12 division and we have 947 courses over which I'm responsible.  We've got folks who are on board now and making that process and product more accessible to community members, obviously to our staff and pushing it down to the kids.  I think that's probably our best and biggest success.

Kahle Charles, Assistant Superintendent of Assessment, Curriculum & Instruction at St. Vrain Valley Schools in Longmont, CO said, “When I first came to the district as a principal, my schools primarily served three trailer courts and an apartment house. And if I drove literally across the tracks to another school, there was a stark difference in what was available. So, our superintendent and our board engaged in a process, and what came out of that got us to where we are today. Our superintendent, Dr. Don Haddad said, ‘we do not want the quality of a child's education to depend upon their zip code or their neighborhood.’ And then we furthered that on to the master schedule, because you know how your master schedule reflects what you value. And we went through a process of really transforming our district and now we are a system. We are no longer a district of schools. We are a true school district. Digital learning has elevated the playing field for all our students. To get that really rigorous, high-quality education; it gives them a competitive advantage.”

Abraham Williams, Director of Information Technology at the Academy for Urban Leadership, Perth Amboy, NJ shared some of the barriers his district has faced in their digital transition. “I will start out by saying that most instructors are resistant to changes. When you roll out a new initiative, getting instructors to adopt new changes is hard, even though it is going to help the students.

“I will give an example there. I had been teaching engineering and computer science. (I don't teach anymore). I heard there was a constant battle between this student and his teacher. I pulled the student in my office and I spoke to this student trying to figure out what's going on. The student broke down to me at told me that he was separated from his parents who had to work so he had to go into a neighbor’s house and everything he’s learned, he had learned from the street or he had learned from other people. When he told me that, it broke me apart and I adopted this kid; I always welcomed him. When I was walking by and I heard a constant battle in this classroom, I looked through the window and I went in the classroom. I went to the teacher, I said, can I talk to you? I pulled the student out of the room. And I talked to this student. I said, I know what you've been through. So, what I need you to do is just go back out and talk to the teacher. After that, I, pulled the teacher out and I talked to the teacher about the student’s background, and I decided to set up a meeting so the three of us could dialogue. And since, I had already explained what was going on to the student, this teacher went back and she adopted herself to the student, thinking about where he had come from. And now this student who was not turning in homework, who was probably failing in the class, I have check grades and he's up in the 80th percentile.”

Watch the Video

These three award-winning districts are all highly effective in the use of technology to create better learning experiences for their students. All have achieved excellence through very different paths. This is a video that is fun to watch – it is rich in both strategy and emotion, and you can see the human side in every technology decision that is made. Take a look. You’ll find ideas and proven successes that you can use immediately in your own district.

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