Technology key to award-winning district’s excellence


A North Carolina school system has won a prestigious national award for excellence, and its superintendent credits the district’s use of technology for such initiatives as distance education, teacher professional development, and data-driven decision making as reasons for the award.

The Iredell-Statesville Schools (I-SS) was recently announced as a recipient of the 2008 Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award (Baldrige Award), which is the highest presidential honor for organizational innovation and excellence in performance.

The award also was given to two other organizations: Cargill Corn Milling North America, a Minnesota-based manufacturing company, and Poudre Valley Health System, a Colorado-based health care company. The award last went to an educational institution in 2005.

I-SS Superintendent Terry Holliday, who was chosen as North Carolina’s superintendent of the year for 2009 as well, said he believed Iredell-Statesville Schools’ use of distance education was one of the key things that made the district stand out from the 85 Baldrige Award applicants.

“North Carolina was recently recognized … for our learn-and-earn online project. We use virtual distance education so that students can take their classes online,” he said. The program, in its second year, is offered statewide. “But we have a higher percentage of students taking online courses. There were over 500 courses taken [in the Iredell-Statesville Schools] last year, and this year we’re headed toward 1,000,” Holliday added.

Holliday said he thought the district’s offering of both face-to-face and online opportunities for teachers to collaborate on their own professional development and on student learning also enabled I-SS to stand out from the applicant pool.

“There are a lot of singleton teachers, but now we can hook teachers up through virtual professional learning communities,” he said, adding that these virtual communities have helped transform the school system’s culture from a “focus on teaching” to a “focus on learning.”

In addition to the virtual learning communities, I-SS offers online professional development courses where teachers can not only take courses, but also track their studies. The district also uses Follett Software’s TetraData data warehousing and analytical software to facilitate fact-based, data-driven decision making from the classroom to the district level.

“Teachers [give] an assessment, and within three days they have comparative data across the district. Teachers and principals can track any information,” Holliday said. “Even students use data notebooks for their student implementation plan. They use data from the data warehouse to keep track of their improvement.”

The district also has an effective web site, Holliday said. To communicate with stakeholders, I-SS’s web site features videos, podcasts, and a blog that Holliday updates about once a week.

Congress established the Baldrige Award in 1987 to enhance the competitiveness and performance of U.S. businesses. The award, given through the National Institute of Standards and Technology, is designed to promote excellence in organizational performance, recognize the achievements and results of U.S. organizations, and publicize successful performance strategies.

The award will be presented in 2009 by the president. Holliday said he expects the ceremony to be sometime in February or March.

President George W. Bush announced the three award recipients in November.

“For more than two decades, the Baldrige Award has honored the most industrious, enterprising, and productive organizations in America. This year’s recipients have displayed the hard work, dedication, and leadership that have allowed them to achieve excellence in the fields of business, health care, education, and nonprofit work,” Bush said in a press release.

Links:

Iredell-Statesville Schools

National Institute of Standards and Technology

Baldrige National Quality Award program

Note to readers:

Don’t forget to visit the Online Learning for High School Success resource center. Preventing high school dropouts has become a key focus of education stakeholders and government officials across the country, as the skills taught in high school are imperative to students’ success. But with online credit recovery programs and virtual learning becoming more accessible to more students, many are able to regain momentum and graduate with high school diplomas. Go to: Online Learning for High School Success