After a rigorous review process that included more than five dozen schools and districts, three winners were selected by the Alliance for Excellent Education to receive the 2016 Excellence and Innovation in Secondary Schools Award. Each year, the Alliance invites school leaders to apply for the opportunity to be recognized for successfully transforming their learning experience through technology.
Educators and leaders selected for this prestigious opportunity receive national recognition through participation in online and in-person events, video interviews, case studies, and other activities organized by the Alliance. Through the award process, the Alliance seeks to inform policymakers, state officials, district leaders, school administrators, and educators from all backgrounds about promising digital learning practices that are improving outcomes for traditionally underserved students. Recipients of the 2016 award include MC2STEM High School in Ohio; Warsaw Community Schools in Indiana; and the Santa Ana Unified School District in California.
Consistently graduating more than 90 percent of its largely African American student population, MC2 was created through a public-private partnership, which includes Cleveland State University and General Electric, to provide for real-world project-based digital learning experiences for students in STEM fields.
MC2 STEM places a large emphasis on internships and job shadowing and students are assigned job-site mentors at each campus, allowing them to connect with a STEM professional in an impactful way. Much of the work completed at MC2 STEM is project-based, pushing students to work collaboratively and across subjects.
At 2 p.m. (ET) during Digital Learning Day Live, MacKinnon, Debbie Jackson, associate professor at Cleveland State University, and Amanda Smith, community programs coordinator at Nela Park, General Electric Lighting and Current, will join moderator Rafranz Davis, executive director of professional and digital learning at Lufkin Independent School District (TX), for a live digital discussion on Diversifying Students in STEM.
The local needs of the community, including the orthopedic, medical and agricultural industries, have propelled Warsaw to create innovative visions for inspiring dreams and enriching the community through technology and a focus on science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education. Together, Warsaw Community Schools and the Warsaw Area Career Center are engaging students in deeper, more impactful learning through a hands-on approach. Over the past five years, the district has added over seventy-five new classes to its career center and high school curricula, encouraging students to explore a wide range of fields.
Warsaw also has the fifth largest dual credit program in the state of Indiana, in which high school students can simultaneously earn high school and college credit for a single class. Teachers are encouraged to teach a college-level course, which has led to more than 75 percent of high school teachers having experience teaching a dual enrollment course. During the 2014-15 school year, Warsaw students earned AP and dual enrollment credits worth over $1 million. With its dual enrollment and career and technical education programs, the district has made great strides to push students towards college and career readiness.
With almost 90 percent of students qualifying for free or reduced price lunch and English language learners making up almost half of the student population, Santa Anna USD is closing the technology gap through a 1:1 device program and a bring your own device (BYOD) policy. In the 2014-15 school year, the district implemented a new initiative called “Access for All.” Starting at the intermediate level, students in grades 6-8 each received a mobile device (iPad Mini or Chromebook) to support their instructional learning. The program has since expanded to 4-10 grades. Students are allowed to take the devices home with them to continue the flow of learning and access their work and other valuable resources.
Santa Anna USD is also finding creative ways to address issues of home access by working with the municipality to increase open wireless access in public spaces, outfitting the exterior of schools to broadcast filtered wireless access into surrounding homes, and advocating, through concerted lobbying efforts, for a citywide wireless solution.