Superintendent, Huntsville City Schools, Huntsville, AL
In just one year, Huntsville City Schools completely transformed education for its nearly 25,000 students. And the district owes it all to the plan put forth by a brave and visionary leader, Superintendent Casey Wardynski.
“The American education system, for the most part, is run the way it was over 100 years ago, before mankind flew in an airplane, much less flew in space,” says Wardynski. “We can keep taking the assembly-line, one-size-fits-all approach, with everyone moving at the same rate, or we can revolutionize education and make it more student-centric.”
Huntsville chose the latter approach.
Wardynski’s plan, which the board unanimously approved in June of 2012, was to use one-to-one learning and launch a digital curriculum. It is one of the largest school systems to go digital in every school. “My goal was to better prepare students for college and careers by personalizing the learning and removing any barriers to an equitable curriculum for all students,” says Wardynski.
The district prepared for the transition by reallocating funds and saving money through operational efficiencies. Instead of textbooks, they purchased interactive, digital curricula and assessment tools for laptops, netbooks, and iPads. Schools were connected with robust networks, and WiFi was installed in school buses and expanded in public areas throughout the city. More than 1,700 teachers and administrators were trained to infuse technology as they developed their lesson plans. And hundreds of students and their families attended school workshops in preparation for the move to one-to-one learning.
Today, teachers use interactive texts, videos, animations, and other tools from digital instructional programs. Their lessons are more engaging and personalized for each student, and they use assessment tools to determine each student’s level of performance to identify strengths and weaknesses, and provide even more customized assignments. “Technology allows us to offer best-of-breed resources that are always current to every student,” says Wardynski. “When everyone is working out of the same textbook, a teacher doesn’t know where each student is. With digital lessons, you can get instant feedback.”
Wardynski is honored to be recognized as a Tech & Learning leader and hopes other schools will see that change can happen rapidly. “Technology is the great equalizer,” he says. “When all students have a common device, it eliminates equity issues and brings everyone up together instead of pulling people down. We can use technology to make every teacher become more of a super teacher—a facilitator instead of the conveyer of knowledge.”
Best of all, Huntsville is already seeing positive results from this digital revolution. Teacher reports and school records show students more engaged and interested in learning, and suspensions are down 56% from last year.
What He Uses
• Dell netbooks
• HP notebooks
• Pearson digital curriculum
• Renaissance Learning’s STAR assessments
• SMART Board technology