Where can you find an entire school full of students engaged in learning and creativity, and administrators and staff using technology and data to provide a quality education for students? Sound too good to be true? It’s not! It’s happening in Mooresville, North Carolina.
Recently a colleague, Becky de Tenley, and I had a great opportunity to visit Mooresville Graded School District (MGSD) for a guided tour of how their school has integrated technology and data use successfully into both their academic and administrative areas.
I have to say we were blown away on what they have accomplished. They have Kindergarten through 3rd grade using smart boards. Their 4th – 12th graders each have a laptop. The district has totally changed the way students are taught. We got to walk into classrooms to see what the students were doing, and had the opportunity to ask students and teachers questions. It was so wonderful to see, in every class we visited, just how engaged all the students were. When we asked them about school, they responded that school was fun and they really felt like the teachers cared about them.
On the academics side here are some of the things we witnessed:
- The students were working /collaborating on assignments in groups. The teacher was more of a facilitator.
- Four 4th grade science students were learning about fats, carbohydrates and proteins. They were doing research and created a video on their findings.
- A history class was playing a game and students were begging to get in front of class to guess words from their studies with clues from classmates.
- Students making movies about the geologic time scale as a group project.
- High Schools students work the help desk for general elective credit -learning great technology and communication skills.
- Amazing to watch creative student video projects on civil rights-great content and humor.
- High School Spanish class able to use technology for easily creating spoken homework and testing.
- Students monitoring and tracking earthquake activity across the world as an on-going class project.
On the administrative side here are some of the things we witnessed:
- Teachers knowing how each student is performing based on data and not gut instinct.
- Teachers looking at data to determine what classes students should advance to based on past performance.
- Science chair using data to immediately know when students are not grasping concepts are able to reteach those specific areas to those specific students.
- So many classes using SAS’ no-cost online curriculum resources, SAS Curriculum Pathways, for English, history, math, biology, Spanish.
- Biology teacher using SAS EVAAS to predict how well the class will do on assessments and tests.
- Students can track and monitor their performance and play an active role in their growth and development.
MGSD has successfully put meaningful 21st Century instructional tools at the fingertips of every student and every teacher and administrator.We were amazed at what we have seen at MGSD. Why is this not the norm at all schools? We left MGSD wanting our children to have these amazing experiences with learning.
Learn more about Mooresville Graded School District in this PBS special, and stay tuned for more posts and videos from me about this great school too.
This public school district is AMAZING to see in action and provides a stellar example of all the postives we have heard for years that CAN happen with a focused vision on improving student engagement and achievement with a strategic technology plan. You could feel the student excitement from using technology to make their learning more personalized, relevant, current and fun. The collaboration between students and teachers becoming key facilitators was all such an inspiration! They truly exemplify Every Child Every Day!
I also had an opportunity to visit the Mooresville Graded School District recently. I observed a leadership culture focused on the students. From Superintendent Edwards to each of the school principals, it was evident that a student-centric environment was expected and was operational.
While visiting classrooms at all levels, it was apparent that students were receiving frequent feedback from their peers and teachers that was assisting them to demonstrate what they knew and was able to do in engaging ways. John Hattie and Helen Timperley (2007) explain that the purpose of feedback is “to reduce discrepancies between current understandings and performance and a goal (p. 86) while researcher Valerie Shute (2008) said feedback is “information communicated to the learner that is intended to modify his or her thinking or behavior for the purpose improved learning (p. 154).
Feedback in Mooresville classrooms was occurring formally and informally at a rapid pace in one-on-one settings and in small groups. Learning was taking place inside classrooms, outside and in hallways with students collaborating and providing feedback to each other to meet the identified learning goal. With percentile gains for feedback ranging from 43 to 16, it is understandable how powerful feedback has become for the students and teachers of Mooresville Graded School District.
Hattie, J., & Temperley, H. (2007). The power of feedback. Review of Educational Research, 77, 81-112.
Shute, V.J. (2008) Focus on formative feedback. Review of Educational Research, 78, 153-189.
Marzano, R.J. (2010). Formative Assessment & Standards-Based Grading. Bloomington: IN.
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