In November 2016, over 250 school district leaders, researchers, thought leaders, and other partners came to Baltimore, Maryland to learn from one of the nation’s most forward-thinking school districts, Baltimore County Public Schools (BCPS). This League of Innovative Schools meeting was focused on equity, and showcased how BCPS is making strides toward providing access and opportunity for all students.
As with all League meetings, district leaders rolled up their sleeves and committed to bringing actionable steps back to their districts to foster genuine curiosity and a love of learning in all students. Over the course of three days, meeting attendees collaborated in working groups on topics like competency-based education, personalized learning, and maker research. They also identified new partnerships they will continue with researchers, companies, and fellow League districts. Most importantly, participants were able to visit schools and see the opportunities BCPS provides to students.
During these school visits, BCPS showcased programs that support and encourage students to learn and thrive in a globalized world and economy, including: educational options that suit the diverse needs and interest of students; second-language acquisition; and a digital transformation that makes the classroom a learner-centric environment. Visitors also previewed a mobile innovation lab (a bus equipped with maker equipment, with a great Twitter account), which will soon give students across the district access to maker learning opportunities.
Throughout the meeting, participants witnessed some of the work that has had a positive impact on intractable problems in the district, such as the dropout rate and the achievement gap. As BCPS Superintendent Dr. Dallas Dance explains in Digital Promise’s podcast, Ask a Leader, “Now when we start looking at our graduation rate, we don’t see a statistical difference between students who are graduating and are African American students versus students who are graduating and are white students, and that’s amazing…[W]e also recognize that while we can celebrate that success, we still have a ways to go in terms of fully closing the achievement gap, not just based on race, but for students with disabilities, English language learners, and students that are qualified for free and reduced lunch, all of which are populations that are growing.”
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During a keynote address at the meeting, Dr. Freeman A. Hrabowski, president of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, stressed that equity ”is not just about access. It’s about success.” As we reflect on and close out 2016, Digital Promise and the League of Innovative Schools will keep working to improve the opportunity to learn for all students, everywhere, so they can all achieve success.