North Carolina School District Has Success With MacBook Air Initiative

The Mooresville, North Carolina district is one of a handful in the country to issue laptops, the MacBook Air in this case, to each student. Mooresville is attempting to turn the public school education on its head, using technology to change the culture of instruction. The district was profiled in the New York Times on Monday.

The Times says the district has "quietly emerged as the de facto national model of the digital school."

[Superintendent of schools Mark] Edwards spoke on a White House panel in September, and federal Department of Education officials often cite Mooresville as a symbolic success. Overwhelmed by requests to view the programs in action, the district now herds visitors into groups of 60 for monthly demonstrations; the waiting list stretches to April. What they are looking for is an explanation for the steady gains Mooresville has made since issuing laptops three years ago to the 4,400 4th through 12th graders in five schools (three K-3 schools are not part of the program).

The district’s graduation rate was 91 percent in 2011, up from 80 percent in 2008. On state tests in reading, math and science, an average of 88 percent of students across grades and subjects met proficiency standards, compared with 73 percent three years ago. Attendance is up, dropouts are down. Mooresville ranks 100th out of 115 districts in North Carolina in terms of dollars spent per student — $7,415.89 a year — but it is now third in test scores and second in graduation rates.

JP MORRESVILLE popup
Each MacBook Air notebooks is leased from Apple for $215 per year, including warranty. The total cost for the computers is around $1 million per year, plus an additional $100K for software. Families pay a $50 fee

The Mooresville Graded School District paid for the initiative by eliminating 65 jobs, including 37 teaching positions, and accepting larger class sizes. At the same time, schools could get rid of computer labs and antiquated teaching materials like hanging wall maps.

Steve Jobs biographer Walter Isaacson wrote about Jobs' feelings towards American public education. Jobs felt the system was "hopelessly antiquated and crippled by union work rules." Particularly galling to Jobs was that classrooms were led by teachers standing at a blackboard, using textbooks. He felt that "all books, learning materials, and assessments should be digital and interactive." Feedback should be tailored to each student and provided in real time.

Instead of simply throwing technology dollars at the problem, hoping it can fix itself, Mooresville is using technology as a tool to help students learn.

Mooresville frequently tests students in various subjects to inform teachers where each needs help. Every quarter, department heads and principals present summary data to Mr. Edwards, who uses it to assess where teachers need improvement. Special emphasis goes to identifying students who are only a few correct answers away from passing state proficiency standards. They are then told how close they are and, Mr. Edwards said, “You can, you can, you can.”

Apple made its biggest stride yet into the digital classroom at an education-focused event last month. At that event, Apple launched a new digital textbook initiative for the iPad, plus easy-to-use authoring tools to help educators collaborate and share knowledge across school districts and disciplines.

Jobs' vision for the digital school may be turning to reality in Mooresville, North Carolina.

(Image via Jeremy M. Lange/New York Times)

Top Rated Comments

Mal Avatar
123 months ago
The Mooresville Graded School District paid for the initiative by eliminating 65 jobs, including 37 teaching positions, and accepting larger class sizes.

This, I have a significant problem with. Not a worthwhile tradeoff, in my opinion.

jW
Score: 20 Votes (Like | Disagree)
mgsdteacher Avatar
123 months ago
I am a teacher in MGSD. I have been here since 2003 and I am "digital native" but I have taught here both before and after the laptops.

I wanted to address a few things.

First, North Carolina does not have teacher unions. There are teacher unions, however we are a right to work state and so they have little power and/or influence. Fewer than half of our teachers I would guess are members of the NCAE (I am not).

Yes, we have had layoffs. No, they were not directly correlated to the purchase of the laptops. Like every school district in the country, the recession led to a drop in sales tax, therefore our state funding decreased, there our budgets were cut by huge amounts. We have cut back on office supplies, textbooks by not purchasing them, etc. Salaries are the largest part of our budget and I would encourage everyone to view our annual report which details our budget. Many of the positions lost were retirements or people leaving the district of their own volition and whose positions were simply eliminated as opposed to being filled. In addition to our own technology budget, we have a substantial grant from a large national employer who has headquarters in our town.

Yes class sizes have grown. However our administrators have done an outstanding job at raising the class sizes of electives and honor level classes where students are better able to absorb the changes. Our lowest performing students have the smallest class sizes.

Our test scores are based on the accountability tests written and administered by the state of North Carolina. We use our own internal data as formative assessments at regular intervals to prepare for those state tests. The data reflected in the article comes solely from the state and is easily accessible on ncpublicschools.org (click on School Report Cards). It is not a test we made up to make ourselves look good.

In terms of the interaction - one thing not mentioned in the article is that at the same time we did the 1:1 conversion we also adopted a program called Capturing Kids Hearts. It involves making a personal connection with a student because until you capture their heart, you can't capture their mind. We all develop social contracts with our students, we greet them at the door every day, we share Good News on a regular basis, and truly get to know our students and let them know we care about them. Many of our students have found this to be a safe, comforting environment because the interaction is so much greater. Technology has freed up some of our back-end time so we can take more time to get to know kids, work with them more closely, target their weak areas sooner and get them the help they need. I feel I know my students better and interact with them FAR more than I did previously. My kids email me all the time with questions, when they are at home working on homework, they know they can email or instant message me on Angel, and they get the help sooner and faster.

Additionally, the things I ask my students to do in class allow me to truly see their creativity shine, and demonstrate their true gifts, and their actual learning, so I learn to see the student behind the textbook so to speak. Again, the things they can do with the technology allow me to see a richer, more complex person that answers on a worksheet. It allows me to have a personal insight into my students' lives. I absolutely can confirm that I have touched more lives as a result of this technology being available. Not just the bright, smart kids that everyone loves to work with - also those who feel they are worthless, have no parent support, have no one to give them kind or supporting words, or show no interest in their school lives or work.

In terms of what we teach - it varies from subject to subject however in my department we are focused on proficiency-based learning where students demonstrate through their blogs, digital portfolios and performance assessments what they have learned. They all perform at different levels, and they have different assignments based on their abilities. We use a lot of project-based learning where students are involved in collaborative problem solving of real-world problems. We are nurturing higher level thinking skills and empowering kids to reflect, push themselves, and think creatively. I would encourage to watch some video of our teachers in action as we were recently profiled at Digital Learning Day. You can find those videos here: http://www.digitallearningday.org/DLD2012
We are profiled in the leadership and instructional strategies section.

I am honored and blessed to work in such a district where we have made a priority of reaching every child, every day and I appreciate the opportunity to share my insights with all of you.

Let me add to that I left a highly lucrative career to take a 50%+ pay cut to become a teacher. (I am still not yet to the salary I was making in 2002 when I became a teacher). There are no bonuses, no merit raises, no title upgrades or promotions. But my students who tell me I have made a difference in their lives (and one class made a surprise website featuring video tutorials of the impact I had made on them - purely unsolicited and unexpected) - that is why I do what I do.
Score: 17 Votes (Like | Disagree)
anonApple Avatar
123 months ago
Wonderful, let's make our education system worse. But hey you get a temporarily leased laptop!!! WOOHOO!!!
"- The district's graduation rate was 91 percent in 2011, up from 80 percent in 2008.
- On state tests in reading, math and science, an average of 88 percent of students across grades and subjects met proficiency standards, compared with 73 percent three years ago.
- Attendance is up, dropouts are down.
- Mooresville ranks 100th out of 115 districts in North Carolina in terms of dollars spent per student -- $7,415.89 a year -- but it is now third in test scores and second in graduation rates."


Yes, such a terrible shame the education system was made so much worse by these laptops.

----------

Score: 17 Votes (Like | Disagree)
KrazyBear15 Avatar
123 months ago
Is it just me or does it look like that kid is wearing Shaq's shoes?
Score: 14 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Mike Oxard Avatar
123 months ago

At the same time, schools could get rid of computer labs and antiquated teaching materials like hanging wall maps.

Now America can have a real reason for not knowing there is somewhere called "the rest of the world" ;)
Score: 13 Votes (Like | Disagree)
york2600 Avatar
123 months ago
Talk to someone who did it

I went to a technology highly several years ago. We were one of the first with the Vice President coming to see what were were doing. We received millions in funding form the Gates Foundation and other non-profits because this was going to be the "future of education". Guess what. It did well for a few years as the school attracted top talent who were interested in having a computer at every desk. Eventually the allure wore off as every kid had as much tech at home as the school provided. Test scores dropped and the school fell apart. I learned some great stuff about technology during my time there, and I had some fantastic opportunities in technology that in part helped to make me a very high income earner today. Having said that the school was a failure in my opinion. Teachers relied on technology to interest students and not the curriculum. I graduated with a fantastic technology education, but I lacked a basic high school education in math and sciences that left me struggling in college. This is not the future of education. The future of education is parents who do their jobs and trust their teachers to do theirs. It's parents who take the technology away from their children until they do basic learning. iPads are not going to save this country's education system. Only basic parenting can.
Score: 12 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Top Stories

Pro Display XDR Yella

Apple Working on External Display With Built-In A13 Chip

Friday July 23, 2021 9:37 am PDT by
Apple is developing an external display that includes an A13 chip with Neural Engine, according to a new rumor from 9to5Mac. The A13 chip with Neural Engine would presumably serve as an eGPU, though details are light at this time. Having a CPU/GPU built into the external display could help Macs deliver high-resolution graphics without using all the resources of the computer's internal chip....
iOS 14 on iPhone feature emergency

Apple Releases iOS and iPadOS 14.7.1 With Fix for Touch ID Apple Watch Bug

Monday July 26, 2021 9:48 am PDT by
Apple today released iOS and iPadOS 14.7.1, minor bug fix updates that come just a week after the release of iOS 14.7, software that introduced new Apple Card features and support for the MagSafe Battery Pack. The iOS and iPadOS 14.7.1 updates can be downloaded for free and the software is available on all eligible devices over-the-air in the Settings app. To access the new software, go to...
discount m1 macbook yellow

Deals: Shop Record Low Prices Across Apple's Full MacBook Pro and MacBook Air Lineup (Up to $499 Off)

Friday July 23, 2021 8:23 am PDT by
Apple's MacBook Pro and MacBook Air lineup is seeing all-time low discounts across the board today, including the 2019 16-inch MacBook Pro, 2020 13-inch MacBook Air, and 2020 13-inch MacBook Pro. Note: MacRumors is an affiliate partner with some of these vendors. When you click a link and make a purchase, we may receive a small payment, which helps us keep the site running. 13-Inch M1...
iphone 12 pro gold

Report: iPhone 14 Pro Models to Feature Tough Titanium Alloy Chassis

Monday July 26, 2021 1:12 am PDT by
Next year's "iPhone 14" series is expected to feature high-end models with a new titanium alloy chassis design, claims a new investors report by JP Morgan Chase. According to the report, the use of titanium alloy will be one of the biggest changes to the case design in the 2022 iPhone series, and Foxconn will be the exclusive manufacturer of the titanium frames for the high-end models....
FaceID iMac REREREREMIX

Gurman: Face ID on the Mac Coming Within a 'Couple of Years'

Sunday July 25, 2021 7:09 am PDT by
Apple plans to bring Face ID to the Mac within the next "couple of years," respected Bloomberg journalist Mark Gurman said today in the latest edition of his Power On newsletter. In the newsletter, Gurman says that he believes Apple's ultimate goal is to shift all of its products to Face ID, including the lower-end iPhones such as the iPhone SE and the iPad Air, which feature Touch ID....
airpods 3 gizmochina Feature

AirPods 3 Rumored to Launch Alongside iPhone 13 at Expected September Event

Friday July 23, 2021 12:54 am PDT by
The third-generation AirPods will likely launch at the same event revealing Apple's upcoming iPhone 13 lineup, according to a report from DigiTimes, which makes the claim citing sources familiar with the matter. The report as a whole echoes previous reporting that production of the third-generation AirPods will kickstart in August, meaning a launch shortly after can be easily expected. DigiTi...
imac with accessories

Larger Redesigned High-End iMac Rumored to Launch Next Year

Monday July 26, 2021 3:45 am PDT by
Apple's larger redesigned iMac will arrive sometime in 2022 rather than later this year, according to the leaker known as "Dylandkt." On Twitter, Dylandkt claimed that Apple's "high end iMac" is not expected to release in the fourth quarter of 2021 alongside Apple's "M1X Macs" – a reference to Apple's redesigned MacBook Pro models – because "Apple simply does not want their devices to...
apple bitcoin hack

Is Apple Really Buying Bitcoin?

Monday July 26, 2021 3:07 am PDT by
A large number of websites and posts on social media are stoking rumors that Apple has purchased $2.5 billion worth of bitcoin in the company's first move into cryptocurrency, but is there any validity to the claims? Many people are citing the fact that Apple was looking for a Business Development Manager with experience in alternative payments, including cryptocurrency, earlier this year as ...
apple mac business page

Apple Shares 11 Reasons Why Business Users Should Choose Macs

Monday July 26, 2021 11:35 am PDT by
Apple today updated its Apple at Work website with a new section dedicated to the Mac, which offers up 11 reasons why "Mac means business." On the webpage, Apple highlights the M1 chip as the number one reason why business users should choose a Mac, offering up an M1 overview [PDF] that explains the benefits of the M1 chip. The information isn't new, but it does provide a look at all of...
magsafe battery pack iphone 12 mini

Top Stories: Hands-On With MagSafe Battery Pack, iPhone 13 Always-On Display?

Saturday July 24, 2021 6:00 am PDT by
Apple's new MagSafe Battery Pack is now available, and we went hands-on this week for some early impressions of the new accessory to get more battery life out of Apple's iPhone 12 lineup. Subscribe to the MacRumors YouTube channel for more videos. This week also saw a number of rumors about the upcoming redesigned MacBook Pro models, the iPhone 13 lineup, the next-generation iPad mini, a new...