Measures for Success

Perhaps one of the most contentious aspects of my country’s No Child Left Behind legislation is how it measures the success of education reform — high-stakes, standardized tests, developed by state departments of education, based on state standards.  There is nothing inherently  wrong with wanting to assure that every child is mastering basic literacy and numeracy skills, and now learning the basics of Science — except that test scores have become the primary and often the exclusive measure for the success of every classroom and every school, and to many educators, high stakes standardized tests have become a barrier to true education reform.

Google Map of Green County's Snow Hill
Snow Hill is the largest town in Green County.

One place I’ve recently learned about that is stepping out beyond testing is Green County, North Carolina.  A low wealth, rural, county in the eastern coastal plain of North Carolina, Green County decided to base its education on opportunity rather than test scores by putting a laptop computer into the hands of every middle and high school student, starting in 2003.

iTEACH (Informational Age Technology for Every Child) is based on three critical elements:

  1. Infrastructure,
  2. Content, and
  3. Professional Development

One of the most interesting and courageous statements that I’ve heard made by several education leaders who have pressed for putting contemporary information and communication technologies in the hands of every student, is that we aren’t doing it for the sake of test scores.  Green County’s superintendent, Dr. Steve Mazingo, is one of them.  I recently presented at a quarterly meeting of North Carolina superintendents, and had the pleasure of hearing Mazingo talk about his schools and their 1:1 program.  He stated, up front, that their test scores had not improved that significantly (End of Course scores have risen from 67%-78%).

Of particular interest, however, is the number of graduating high school students who are going to college.  Prior to their 1:1 initiative, only 26% of students continued their education after high school.  On the last day of school, in 2006, 79% of graduating seniors had already been accepted at post secondary institutions.  In 2007, it rose to 84%.

Mazingo stresses that it is not the laptops that has caused this change, but its the change in education culture that comes from being connected, from teachers who must become master learners, from ubiquitous access (the entire county is now wireless), and I would suggest that it is when students see a community that cares enough to invest in their education and their future.

The measure doesn’t stop with college acceptances.  The county, in the last couple of years has see new business come, a new industrial park, a new recreation complex, and a new golf resort community. 

They want their educated and creative children to want to come home.

Author: David Warlick

David Warlick has been an educator for the past 40+ years. He continues to do some writing, but is mostly seeking his next intersect between play, passion and purpose, dabbling in photography, drone videography and music production.