North Carolina schools will implement statewide IT academy

Officials from the state of North Carolina have announced a new partnership between the state’s Department of Public Instruction and Microsoft. Each of the state’s 628 high schools will adopt the Microsoft IT Academy program in the 2010–2011 school year. The program will give students the opportunity to learn in-demand software and technical skills as well as earn certification as a Microsoft Office Specialist (MOS) or a Microsoft Certified Professional (MCP).

North Carolina's adoption is both the largest deployment globally to date, and also the first adoption of the Microsoft IT Academy program across all high schools in a single state.

To earn the MOS certification, students in the program will focus on learning the skills and technology relevant to all programs in the Microsoft Office suite — including Excel, PowerPoint, Access and OneNote — by completing hands-on labs, quizzes and projects modeled after real-life business scenarios. They will then have the opportunity to take the exam and earn the certification.

“In today’s economy, providing the Microsoft IT Academy to high school students just makes sense,” says North Carolina State Superintendent June Atkinson, who noted that proficiency in Microsoft programs is essential in most professional settings today.

For schools interested in offering more advanced technical certification, students will also have the opportunity to focus on IT career areas such as programming, network administration and database development. Students will then be eligible to take the MCP exam and earn the corresponding certification.

In creating the program, a Microsoft team worked with the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction to create a holistic curriculum to help the state meet its K–12 education mission and goals. One of these core goals was for equality of access.

“Early on in the discussions with North Carolina, the state made it clear that if they were going to adopt a curriculum, they wanted it to be available to all students regardless of their school size, location or economic status,” explains Claudine O’Leary, Global Business Development Manager for Microsoft Learning. “So whether North Carolina students are in one of the smallest, most remote high schools or in one of the larger urban high schools, every student will have the same opportunities to benefit from this program and become Microsoft trained and certified.”

Together with the Microsoft team, North Carolina officials have been evaluating the initial efficacy of the program with a pilot project that launched this fall. It includes 42 teachers and 37 schools in the state. Once the Microsoft IT Academy program is adopted across North Carolina, the program will reach more than 2,500 teachers and nearly 200,000 students over the course of three years.

Microsoft will also be working with North Carolina public schools to roll out Microsoft DreamSpark, a program that provides no-cost access to Microsoft designer, developer and gaming tools and training. In addition, North Carolina plans to broadly implement CareerForward — a free online learning program developed as part of the Microsoft Partners in Learning initiative — which covers career planning, financial literacy and entrepreneurship to help students explore career options.