DC Area Schools Making a Difference

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Ah, that "City of Magnificent Intentions," as Charles Dickens so aptly called it. Teachers have so much more than shining intentions--they have the gift of helping students grow. We are excited to be heading to Washignton, DC on July 12 and 13 for our next EdSurge Tech for Schools Summits. 

The public school districts surrounding Washington, DC are engaged in some fascinating programs for students and teachers. We pulled together profiles of leading area districts in preparation for our confab. Below are snippets of some of the efforts goings on in nine of districts around Washington, DC. Join us at the EdSurge Tech for Schools Summit coming up, July 12 and 13, in Washington, DC to meet the educators and entrepreneurs making a difference for students. 

Alexandria City Public Schools

Alexandria, VA; 14,228 students 

Student Internship with Technology Services: High school students can apply to be summer interns with the technology services team at ACPS. In a three-week paid internship, students receive $750 for their work and have the opportunity to experience the daily tasks of the technology department such as entering data, installing software and maintaining tablets. There are “lunch and learns” with staff as well as with outside individuals, like an Amplify specialist and an employee at an IT consulting firm.

Arlington Public Schools

Arlington, VA; 24,529 students

Evaluating Technology: APS uses a set of Evaluation Standards for Instructional Media that helps the team ensure that the right tools are being selected. These standards are largely based on student need and take into account multiple teaching and learning styles. For example, the instructional media must “chunk content into manageable segments while providing students with opportunities to rehearse the information held in working memory in such a way that it becomes encoded in long-term memory,” or “there are little or no distractions present.”

Baltimore City Public Schools

Baltimore, MD; 84,730 students)

Rocking RTT: With a $52.7 million Race To The Top grant, won in 2010, the district has supported professional development and transforming low-performing schools. It also focused on developing CCSS aligned curriculum and assessments, boosting the rigor of instruction. Funding was also used to build out the technology infrastructure including linking data with instructional tools to help teachers to use data in meaningful ways.

Baltimore County Public Schools

Towson, MD; 109,984 students 

Shining Lighthouse: Thanks to the Maryland Digital Innovation Fund, BCPS has been able to start a pilot group of elementary schools working on refining personalized and blended learning strategies. These schools are dubbed “Lighthouse Schools.” The focus of the pilots are to create various types of learner-centered environments where students have choices around what and how they learn. These ten elementary schools will work to develop strategies on their own and in collaboration with each other that will eventually be shared out with the greater BCPS community. To share the work they are doing, the teachers and students involved in the pilots share reflections and resources on the Lighthouse School blog. The district is also working to organize visits between Lighthouse Schools and with over 100 other elementary schools in the district to begin spreading innovation. Currently, these schools have a 1:1 computer to student ratio in grades 1-3, and will be expanding that next year to grades 4-5. Popular tools used in the Lighthouse Network include Wixie, Discovery Education Streaming, Reading Wonders, BrainPop and PebbleGo. The district will expand the Lighthouse Network to an additional six middle schools in the 2015-16 school year.

District of Columbia Public Schools

Washington, DC; 47,548 students

A Shift Towards Personalized Learning: In 2013, the Education Innovation Fellowship Program was launched by CityBridge Foundation and NewSchools Venture Fund. The program gives innovative teachers an opportunity to pilot tools that support personalized learning in their D.C. classrooms. Teachers participating in the fellowship get to visit other schools to see how tools are being implemented to support personalized learning models in various learning environments. Around the same time, Next Generation Learning Challenges (NGLC) asked CityBridge to launch a regional competition called “Breakthrough Schools: D.C.” They used this competition to distribute up to $6 million to support the redesign or launch of schools with personalized learning models in the district. In 2014, CityBridge announced its first cohort of grantees, each of which received an initial planning grant of $100,000.

Fairfax County Public Schools

Fairfax, VA; 186,785 students

BYOD Initiative: In 2011, the Superintendent of Fairfax County Public Schools launched a BYOD initiative, inviting all principals to encourage students to bring personally-owned devices to school to support learning. The Superintendent recommended that principals begin with laptops and tablets, and to decide about smartphones at a later phase. The BYOD initiative is still going strong throughout the division and now students are encouraged to bring their mobile devices, eReaders and laptops alike. For students who can’t afford devices, the district has a check-out program so they can have access to a device.

Falls Church City Public Schools

Falls Church, VA; 2,459 students

PD Gets Prioritized: FCCPS believes that “professional development is the single most important aspect of creating a transformational student learning environment.” The division takes a differentiated approach to PD, providing a range of opportunities for learning including online learning communities facilitated on Schoology. Staff must meet a minimum requirement of 20 hours of technology training and must maintain a portfolio showcasing their technology proficiency. There are digital learning teams and pilot teams at each school that are focused on leading the staff at their sites in technology integration. PD opportunities include 24/7 On-Demand digital seminars, workshop sessions, individualized technology coaching sessions and more.

Loudoun County Public Schools

Ashburn, VA; 73,974 students

BYOT Initiative: In 2015, LCPS launched a Bring-Your-Own-Technology (BYOT) initiative, allowing students to bring their own devices to school to support their learning. The technology is used to collaborate with peers and teachers, to engage in research and problem-based learning and to publish their work. This initiative acts as a support to the division’s One to the World initiative. Though the initiative will ultimately be division-wide, the initial launch began in 19 schools. LCPS will expand the program to all schools during the 2015-2016 school year.

Prince George's County Public Schools

Upper Marlboro, MD; 125,136 students

Career Academies: Thanks to a generous grant from Youth CareerConnect, the district has support to develop its career academies at three high schools: Bladensburg High, Fairmont Heights High and Potomac High School. These schools will develop career-oriented curricula and integrate hands on learning experiences into the classroom. These programs fall in line with an existing program, started by Chief Information Officer, Welsley Watts Jr. The program, called IT High School, allows high school students to earn IT skills certificates so they can leave school prepared for both college and career.

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