To improve learning outcomes and opportunities for all students, St. Lucie Public Schools wanted to effectively transition from traditional learning to student-centered learning.
The district engaged NTT DATA to provide professional development for teachers, students, and families; customizable curriculum development; and device management services.
“Our goals were not about the devices. They were about establishing the methodologies our teachers and students need to make student-centered learning successful. We engaged NTT DATA to help us because it came forward with a holistic approach.”
Adopting a student-centered learning model involves more than just deploying devices. K−12 districts need a clear path for helping students, teachers and families transition from traditional teaching methods to personalized, proactive learning supported by technology. While some districts struggle to sort through all the challenges on their own, others such as St. Lucie Public Schools achieve positive outcomes quicker by engaging Professional Learning Services by NTT DATA.
When St. Lucie saw it could improve engagement and outcomes with student-centered learning, it knew it would need to provide each student with a device through a 1:1 initiative. With nearly 74 percent of its students qualifying for a free and reduced lunch, many district families do not have internet access or devices. However, before it moved forward with its vision, the district sought a technology partner that could help with planning and professional development. Terence O’Leary, chief technology officer at St. Lucie Public Schools, says, “Our goals were not about the devices. They were about establishing the methodologies our teachers and students need to make student-centered learning successful. We engaged the professional learning services team to help us because it came forward with a holistic approach that includes professional development for teachers and students.”
To understand challenges and establish goals, the consultants participated in numerous meetings with the school board, advisory councils, teachers and students. They t also brought district leaders to visit schools it has worked with. “We really spent a lot of time preplanning and planning before deploying,” O’Leary says. “We could then work with the professional learning services team to create a customized solution that meets our unique requirements. Their national and international experience with student-centered learning allowed us to be very comfortable with its recommended approach, especially from the professional development perspective.” To simplify first-year adoption, the district implemented the 1:1 initiative at just two schools, including Port St. Lucie High School.
A public announcement about the initiative sparked interest by some teachers at the two sites that would be the first to participate. These teachers volunteered to attend eight training sessions led by the professional learning services team to learn how to give students more voice and choice in how they learn and demonstrate mastery of subjects. The teachers also learned how to coach other teachers. O’Leary says, “It’s very important to provide teachers with the support they need, when they need it.”
Initially, St. Lucie deployed 3,000 laptops at the two participating sites. When all schools are participating, the district will have 20,000 client devices. To reduce the operational costs of device management, the district engaged the managed services team. “With budgets that are already very constrained, we don’t have the luxury of hiring IT staff for each school,” says O’Leary. “The management services team is quite familiar with our situation and it provides a very systematic and affordable approach to device management.” To ensure that students can always access digital tools, every day a consultant picks up laptops that need servicing and drops off devices that serve as spares in case a student needs one. If a student has a device issue, it’s typically resolved within 20 minutes.
The district also engaged local businesses and libraries to offer free WiFi so that students can access the school’s portal and web-based tools after school. “We worked with the County Transportation Department to modify the transportation routes and allow our students to ride free with their public library card or school identification card, to provide access to these sites,” O’Leary explains. “So, the community became our partner in this journey.”
To help parents learn how to use technology to monitor their child’s progress and communicate with teachers, the district established a Parent Academy that’s managed by the county’s Community Services program. “We see our student-centered learning program as an opportunity for families and students,” O’Leary explains. “Because these may be the only devices in the household, we’re teaching parents how to use them too.”
St. Lucie rolled out the new student-centered learning model at two schools just six months after its first discussions. Teachers show students how to use different types of technology to communicate and collaborate, and to complete coursework in a way that works best for them. Interested students can also undergo training to earn a certificate in device support and work at the school’s help desk. As more students are helping one another to learn, bullying and other social issues that arise from student cliques are decreasing. “Our school’s culture is becoming more inclusive,” says O’Leary.
The results of the new initiative are measurable. Last year, St. Lucie realized a 2.3 percent increase in its high school graduation rate. This year, an even larger percentage of students are on track to graduate, and 15 students will be graduating with an Associate’s degree now that it’s easier to complete college classes online. In addition, truancy is down. Bridgette Hargadine, principal at Port St. Lucie High School, says, “We can now provide a world-class education to our students.. The consultants have so much experience in student-centered learning, we’re not reinventing the wheel. They have helped make the daunting task of this very large initiative into something that’s been attainable very quickly.” *
*This case study was originally written by Dell Services, which has become NTT DATA Services as of November 2016.