Gary - HeadshotGary Smuts
ABC Unified School District

Gary Smuts has served as superintendent of California’s ABC Unified School District since 2005. During that time, he has implemented a technology-based high school graduation requirement that has received national recognition. This “TechGradRequirement” builds on the International Society for Technology in Education’s National Educational Technology Standards (NETS) to create lessons and projects focused on effective technology integration.

The policy states that all students must demonstrate technology proficiency in grades 7-12 as a prerequisite to graduating from high school. The Technology Graduation Requirement went into effect in the fall of 2009, and it will be required for graduating from the district beginning with the high school class of 2013.

To meet this goal, the district has set annual benchmarks for the percentage of classes in each secondary school that (1) integrate technology into instruction, (2) give students the opportunity to learn key 21st-century skills, and (3) prepare students for work and citizenship in the digital era. Smuts also created a YouTube video message to his 1,100 teachers, asking for their support in aligning their instruction with NETS by designing projects that have students use technology to solve problems related to every core curriculum area.

To support the initiative, ABC Unified partnered with the Los Angeles County Office of Education to deliver professional development to its teachers. To date, all 10 secondary schools in the district have integrated technology within at least half of their classes.

The Los Angeles County Department of Education gave this initiative its 2009 Digital Voice Award for Innovation. Smuts also was chosen as the 2009 Association of California School Administrators’ State Superintendent of the Year.

PictureCraig Witherspoon
Edgecombe County Public Schools
North Carolina

Edgecombe County is a rural North Carolina district of 7,300 students, about 65 percent of whom qualify for free or reduced-price lunches. But Craig Witherspoon hasn’t let this economic challenge stand in the way of delivering 21st-century tools and resources to prepare the district’s students for success in a global economy.

Witherspoon secured the funding to support a one-to-one wireless laptop program for Edgecombe County’s 2,200 high school students and their teachers, and he made sure his staff had the training, support, and online curriculum they needed to ensure the program’s success.

Much of the funding for the initiative came from a $1.5 million grant from the Golden Leaf Foundation, and the North Carolina-based technology firm SAS helped provide staff training. The district is using SAS Curriculum Pathways software in all core disciplines; the software provides interactive lessons that target higher-order thinking skills and cover a variety of learning styles.

The Friday Institute at North Carolina State University is evaluating the program to determine its effectiveness–but Witherspoon says scores already are up in three of the district’s four high schools, and discipline problems are down. One reason the program appears to be paying off is that the district has designated key members of the faculty–four at each school–to act as facilitators for the project.

Technology training continues for the district’s staff, as Witherspoon recognizes the importance of ongoing professional development. More than 180 teachers have received training through the Intel Teach train-the-trainer model, and upon completion of the training, teachers are given a laptop, projector, and document camera for their classroom.

Laura Ascione
About the Author:

Laura Ascione

Laura Ascione is the Managing Editor, Content Services at eSchool Media. She is a graduate of the University of Maryland's prestigious Philip Merrill College of Journalism. Find Laura on Twitter: @eSN_Laura