Chris Graham: County school board looks to the future of education

augusta-county2editsOn the one hand, there’s the Augusta County Board of Supervisors, and its shortsighted, short-term-focused approach to public education, which seems to assume that there is no tomorrow, and that today is 1988. On the other is the Augusta County School Board, which is looking to an unexpected source to lay a blueprint for the future of public education.

It’s Mooresville, N.C., which ranks in the bottom 15 among school districts in the Tar Heel State in spending per student, and yet through the smart deployment of resources into technology-based education has increased test scores across the sociodemographic board.

The county school board and school system sent a delegation to Mooresville last month to learn how that school district has been able to do what it’s done within its tight budget constraints.

The secret: look forward, not backward. Four years ago, the school system issued laptops to all students in grades 4-12 and worked with the local business community to ensure that students had access to WiFi in school and at home. Then it asked its teachers to change the way they did their jobs in the classroom, encouraging an open learning environment with a focus on collaboration between students.

The results have been stunning. Mooresville ranks 100th in school spending among North Carolina’s 115 localities, and yet ranks third in test scores and second in graduation rates.

To get there required up-front investment on the part of the Mooresville community.

The return on that investment is years from being realized, but rest assured, it is coming. No matter what direction one is headed in, the reality is that the jobs that the kids of today will have in the real world of tomorrow will require that they can adapt to new technologies and learn to think and make decisions on the fly. Learning from textbooks that are several years old and demonstrating the ability to regurgitate information and fill in ovals on standardized tests won’t cut it.


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