Timothy Farley, EdD
Superintendent Granville County Schools
Technology shows the future of education
Granville County Schools aims for 100 percent graduation
According to the North Carolina New Schools Project (NCNSP), high schools today were designed at a different time, for a different economy, leaving students bored and disconnected from school life and the realities of the modern workplace. And for high school students who don't drop out first, they might not graduate with all of the skills necessary to be successful at college or in the work force. Until recently, this was the reality facing South Granville High School in North Carolina. But thanks to the Redesigned Schools 2.0 initiative – a collaboration among SAS, the NCNSP, the Friday Institute for Education Innovation and Granville County Schools – the high school is nearing its goal of graduating 100 percent of its students.
South Granville High School is the embodiment of educational innovation in the state. As the pilot school in the district's Redesigned Schools 2.0 program, teaching and learning have been transformed through the donation of new laptops for each student and teacher, as well as with SAS® Curriculum Pathways® online teaching resources and SAS® EVAAS® for K-12 (Education Value-Added Assessment System).
We've already seen a 20.3 percent jump in the graduation rate at South Granville, and I've seen an increase in attendance and a decrease in disciplinary action.
Timothy Farley, EdD
Increasing graduation rates
According to District Superintendent Timothy Farley, EdD, it's because of the program – based on the NCNSP 1:1 Learning Technology Initiative – that in just two years the school is closing in on its goal of 100 percent student graduation.
"Our graduation rate was only 58 percent," says Farley. "We've already seen a 20.3 percent jump in the graduation rate at South Granville, and I've seen an increase in attendance and a decrease in disciplinary action."
The technology advantage
So why has the technology-based approach to education made a difference?
"When we ask former students why they drop out, one of the most common responses is that they were bored; I knew we could change that if we allowed them to learn the way they learn with technology at home," says Vanessa Wrenn, Instructional Technology Director, Granville County Schools. "Student engagement has changed; the energy's almost palpable. It's forced classrooms to change as well – from straight rows of desks to collaborative formations. One student told me that he felt more confident in his skills to go to college."
"Before this we hadn't been doing anything different for 30 or 40 years," explains Farley. "Teachers were doing what they thought was right in educating students, but the kids were disengaging left and right. Our discipline referrals were through the roof, our dropout rates were skyrocketing, and our graduation rate wasn't where it needed to be; there was no focus. SAS Curriculum Pathways allows us to provide direction to teachers and focus to students. It's not necessarily the novelty of the laptops but the ability for teachers to engage kids in learning, rather than just providing instruction, that's really critical."
Prior to the Redesigned Schools 2.0 initiative – which will soon be implemented at another of the county's high schools – the district and a number of its schools were already using the SAS K-12 education solutions, including:
- SAS Curriculum Pathways – online curriculum resources and standards-based content for core academic disciplines.
- SAS EVAAS for K-12 – a system to assess the influence of the district, schools and teachers on student progress rates and enable personalized educational planning at the student level.
Additionally, SAS EVAAS for K-12 delivers rigorous analyses of student test scores to predict the likelihood of students passing end-of-grade testing.
"Before we had SAS EVAAS for K-12, we blindly assigned students to course levels using end-of-course assessments," Farley continues. "Now teachers have the ability to look at progress longitudinally and project the education paths students should take. Our tendency is to just look at students who are struggling, but a lot of times you'll see a reduction in the developmental scale scores of high achievers; you need to be able to ask why it is happening."
A new technology culture
To illustrate how deeply embedded technology has become in Granville County Schools, Farley cites a situation in which an algebra teacher required a leave of absence for the remaining nine weeks of the year. Without a suitable replacement, the school used Skype to connect the class with another school's algebra class – 18 of the 22 students passed.
Farley says he is also impressed with the level of engagement the program has created among teachers, students, parents and the community at large.
"The students are engaged in what they're doing," he says. "Kids we haven't seen in months are coming back to school. When we received the laptops parents came in for training with their children. We never had a PTA at South Granville before, but we have one now. One letter I received from a parent said: 'Kids are happy to go to school now and talk about what they've done with their laptops when they get home. Teachers are grading faster, assigning more projects and providing more chances for my kids to be creative and engaged in their work.' We've received lots of quotes like that from parents. There are huge changes in the community too; local restaurants have created hotspots for students to bring their laptops with them."
OMG, I LV SCHL!
Exhibiting the characteristics of a progressive educator, Farley, contrary to popular attitudes, even sees a place for mobile devices in school.
"I've been to schools where they let kids use their texting abilities to answer questions," Farley recounts. "In Seattle, a teacher had students who were reading Romeo and Juliet consider what Romeo's text to Juliet might have been and vice versa. The use of technology just makes it more interesting for kids."
"One teacher told me that this was the best teaching experience of her career," adds Wrenn. "Students say they wouldn't be able to go to school any other way – and they really don't like giving up their laptops for the summer."
Required online curriculum resources, administrative reporting and an assessment system to re-engage students and help them acquire the skills needed for college and the work force.
- Reduced dropout rate by 20 percent in the first two years.
- Ability to longitudinally review student progress.
- Predict probability of student success.
- Increased attendance.
- Reduced disciplinary action.
- Re-engaged and focused students.