When Dallas Dance became superintendent of Baltimore County Public Schools in 2012, he says people were adamant that there was an educational divide between the haves and the have-nots in the district.
As Dance tells me in the video above, his first priority was closing the achievement gap that has plagued the county’s 175 schools.
Through an initiative called Students and Teachers Accessing Tomorrow, or STAT, the county uses technology to personalize learning for each student and create equity in the classroom.
Dance and his team are working to get a computer or tablet into the hands of all 111,000 students in the Baltimore County Public School System—the 25th largest in the country—within 3 years.
“With 30 kids in the classroom, you cannot level the playing field and make sure every single kid is getting what he or she needs unless technology is prevalent,” he said.
Dance says technology allows teachers to quickly group and regroup students based on their abilities. For example, if some students need more instruction, the teacher can give them personalized attention while the rest of the class moves ahead to the next lesson on their digital devices.
And it’s not just students and teachers that Dance is working to get digitally connected, it’s also parents.
The school system uses a mobile app that allows families with a smartphone but no Internet access to easily access real-time information about their children’s grades, attendance, school announcements, bus schedule and even the lunch menu.
Dance’s efforts have not gone unnoticed. Last year, Microsoft selected the Baltimore County Public Schools as its showcase school system for innovative digital teaching and learning, and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation awarded the school system a $1.5 million grant to advance equity in digital learning.
“Students become empowered when technology is in the classroom,” Dance says, “because then they can become teachers and facilitators for their peers.”