News Article

Charting a different course

Wednesday, April 28, 2004


ARMONK, NY - Teacher professional development, improved student achievement and vibrant programs that continue to scale up beyond the life of the grant are the key differentiators for long term educational success, according to a new study issued by the Center for Children & Technology (CCT), a division of EDC, an independent education research organization.

"If there is a litmus test for success in education reform efforts, then it is the ability of programs to maintain momentum and scale when the grant funding ends, something few initiatives manage to achieve," stated the report, which identified IBM's Reinventing Education grant program as a compelling model for systemic school reform. "IBM's Reinventing Education sites stand out as exceptions."

Launched in 1994, the program has so far seen three rounds of grant awards now totaling $70 million, and is achieving documented success in raising test scores, revolutionizing teacher professional development and creating educational technology focused on results.

In the complicated landscape of school reform, where fads come and go and high-profile programs lose momentum and fade away, IBM's 10-year-old grant initiative is driving higher achievement in classrooms and re-writing the rules for successful school-business partnerships.

"IBM did it the hard way, and years of research conclude that this long-term commitment is the only way to achieve significant, systemic reform," said CCT's Senior Scientist Robert Spielvogel, the principal author of the IBM study. "The company committed Reinventing Education to the long haul, with dynamic school-business partnerships that far exceeded the customary time frame. They recruited their best talent to the program and demonstrated an unyielding commitment to its success."

CCT estimates that over 90,000 teachers and millions of students are using the educational technology tools created through the grant program. According to the report, IBM's strategy was to build on the successes yielded at each phase of the program and spread the best results across all grant sites.

Measurable Results
"Reinventing Education has succeeded across the US and around the globe in countries as diverse as Brazil, Ireland and Vietnam for one reason: it focuses with laser-like attention on giving teachers effective tools that help them improve what they do in the classroom," said Stanley S. Litow, IBM's vice president of Corporate Community Relations. "As a result, there's been a marked improvement in student achievement. Without documented gains in learning, this would be just another school reform program that came and went when the money ran out."

  • In West Virginia, students in Reinventing Education classrooms outperformed their peers, posting higher test scores across grade levels and in all main academic areas.

  • In San Francisco, one of IBM's original grant sites, the district continues to expand and improve the Student Success Team case management tool created by Reinventing Education that is helping to break the cycle of failure for disruptive and under-achieving students.

  • In Memphis, Reinventing Education tools and other resources are a core component of the district's professional development program, with over 85 schools receiving training.

  • In Vermont, Reinventing Education led to a state-level initiative called Standards into Action, which is promoting standards-based teaching through professional development. The program is so successful that the state plans to integrate Standards into Action into all major preservice and inservice training programs for Vermont Teachers.

  • In Broward County, Florida, IBM's Reinventing Education grant produced a data warehouse that is driving better educational decisions. In turn, school officials enhanced the technology by developing Virtual Counselor - a unique product that has seen exponential growth in usage among students and their parents in a few short months.

Educational technology solutions created during each phase of Reinventing Education are now bundled into one unified platform called Learning Village, which enables technology integration, student learning and teacher professional development.

"This strategy was key," said Robin Willner, IBM's Director of Corporate Community Relations who manages Reinventing Education. "While each of our sites set out to solve one intractable barrier to school reform, none of these problems were unique to a single school district. They all face remarkably similar challenges. By bundling the technology tools and sharing the results, one grant site was able to leverage the results of another to solve not only its own target issue, but other barriers to school reform, as well."

In all, Reinventing Education is addressing national educational challenges that include home-school communication, data management and analysis, classroom instruction, teacher professional development and student assessment.

"At the very heart of school reform is a qualified classroom teacher who has the extraordinary ability to instruct and inspire the children of Memphis to become eager learners," said Dr. Carol Johnson, Superintendent, Memphis Public Schools. "IBM's Reinventing Education grant has expanded the scope and value of teacher professional development in many of our schools. The results are better teachers and higher-achieving students."

According to CCT, the IBM program represents a "fundamental and radical shift" in the way a private corporation and public schools work together. The IBM differences include:

  • Treating its school partners as valued business partners

  • Recruiting expert talent from the company's research laboratories and consulting divisions to work hand-in-hand with teachers and administrators

  • Identifying school partners that are ripe for reform

  • Establishing long-term partnerships to allow time for iterative development

  • Remaining flexible: not one of the solutions that have emerged from Reinventing Education is the same as originally conceived.

"Teachers like the flexibility that the tools offer," said Karen Moylan, a mathematics educator with the Vermont Mathematics Partnership. "They like being able to go online at their convenience to talk about the student work. They also like the fact that they can communicate with other teachers around the state. Many schools in Vermont are small, rural schools where a teacher has no other teachers who teach the same grade level. Through the use of this tool they feel connected to a larger community of teachers."

In 1997, EDC's Center for Children and Technology (CCT) began a long-term evaluation study of the sites where the Reinventing Education program was launched. The comprehensive, multi-year investigation, funded by IBM, examined how the program helped address specific educational challenges identified by each grant site. The results of this study provide an account of the sites' process and progress, and how this knowledge can inform future practice.

Founded in 1980, the Center for Children and Technology (CCT) investigates how technology can influence and enhance teaching and learning across a wide range of educational settings. CCT conducts basic, applied and formative research, working in collaboration with educational, corporate, government and research institutions. CCT also designs and develops prototype software and instructional resources that support engaged, active learning. Originally a research division of Bank Street College, CCT joined Education Development Center, Inc. (EDC), a nonprofit organization based in Newton, Mass., in 1993.

For more information, please contact:
Donna Mattoon
Corporate Communications

Alison Cohen
Media Relations Manager
Education Development Center Inc.