One Giant Leap for Learning

BCPS launches learner-centered S.T.A.T. initiative

On Wednesday, August 27, the classrooms of Baltimore County Public Schools once again will fill with the voices and energy of its students. This first day of the 2014-2015 school year will also mark the launch of BCPSS.T.A.T. — Students and Teachers Accessing Tomorrow.

Far from just a 1:1 initiative, S.T.A.T. is transforming how BCPS meets the needs of 110,000 students. Every aspect of teaching and learning – from the curriculum driving daily instruction to assessment and training supported by improvements to infrastructure and policy – will benefit from better access to technology districtwide.

“It’s thrilling to bring S.T.A.T. to fruition after two years of planning and preparation,” said BCPS Superintendent S. Dallas Dance. “Providing the opportunity for our educators to truly personalize learning is one way we will meet individual student needs and ensure that each student is making progress.”

One critical resource is each school’s S.T.A.T. teacher. Through methods, such as coaching and co-planning instruction, that are tailored to school needs, S.T.A.T. teachers will use their expertise in professional development to support learner-centered environments in every classroom.

In learner-centered environments, teachers are facilitators of learning, while students actively construct meaning and explain their work. The physical space also looks different; think collaborative small groups instead of the teacher’s desk facing rows of student desks. Technology provides an opportunity for students to work at their own pace, while accommodating their strengths and weaknesses.

A second districtwide support is technology in the hands of each BCPS educator. Devices were distributed by June 2014 in preparation for summer training opportunities. Systems for managing curriculum, instruction, student data, assessments and training are being unified through a new portal, BCPS One. An early benefit is easy educator access to student data for timely decision-making.

S.T.A.T. is also opening lines of communication between homes and schools through BCPS One. Parents can log on and view student grades, schedules and assignments, anytime and anywhere.

“Dr. Dance and the BCPS team have demonstrated that, when done right, ‘digital conversion’ means so much more than simply bringing technology to the classroom,” said Zach Posner, President of Engrade, which is a BCPS One partner.  “It’s been exciting to see the community rally around this program, and we are incredibly proud to be the platform that powers it.”

Ten elementary schools will take these efforts even further toward a schoolwide digital learning culture. Equipped with 1:1 devices for students, S.T.A.T. Lighthouse schools will serve as demonstration labs for learner-centered instruction that is enabled by technology. As pioneers, they will also provide feedback to shape the future of S.T.A.T.

“At Church Lane, we are very thrilled to be part of launching the S.T.A.T. initiative,” said Principal Judi Devlin. “By having a device in each child’s hands, we create classrooms where personalized learning for every student is ensured. Right now our teacher teams are hard at work translating all that they have learned through our trainings and staff development into rigorous, student-centered learning in every classroom. It’s already clear that our teaching and learning environments will be transformed by this work and that our students’ success in an increasingly competitive and complex world will be ensured.”

As a foundation for all of these efforts, wireless and broadband installation will reach all schools by June 2015 through a partnership with Baltimore County. This infrastructure will ensure that digital learning is not confined to classrooms but enabled throughout the schoolhouse.

All in all, this school year promises to deliver one giant leap forward for innovative, learner-centered instruction in every BCPS classroom.