Microsoft Reveals the Most Innovative Schools in the United States

REDMOND, Wash. — Oct. 4, 2012 — As World Teachers’ Day approaches, Microsoft Corp. is announcing the new 2012–2013 Microsoft Innovative Pathfinder and Mentor Schools being inducted as part of its Innovative Schools program. The 99 new Pathfinder Schools and Mentor Schools from 51 countries were chosen because they have strong school leadership and have established a record of innovation and successful change implementation. The U.S. schools were selected from Alaska, Colorado, Illinois, Michigan, South Carolina, Virginia and Washington. They have demonstrated student success and are great showcases for how one-to-one computing, rethinking curriculum design, bringing innovation to scale for a district, and creating a climate for technological advancement through professional development can improve learning environments to make a real impact on transforming education.

“These U.S. schools and districts are inspiring examples of how school leaders can push boundaries and drive real change by captivating students’ interest in learning through creative teaching with technology,” said Byron V. Garrett, U.S. Innovative Schools program director, Microsoft. “We know technology alone does not improve student outcomes, but schools with dynamic staff like these are models for why we need to scale more broadly. They show others how to undergo systematic change and increase teacher professional development to make a difference for students.”

The Microsoft Innovative Schools program is an educational program that is part of the Microsoft Partners in Learning Program, a 10-year, nearly $500 million commitment to help transform education systems around the world by connecting teachers and school leaders in a community of professional development. The Innovative Schools program helps school leaders transform their school communities into environments that foster innovative teaching practices and 21st century learning by providing the tools and resources needed for greater impact on educational transformation and student preparation. Through the program, school leaders become part of a global learning community and get access to expert advice and mentoring. A key component of the program is for each school leader to build sharable assets and create tools for other schools to leverage.

First-Year Participants

Microsoft Innovative Pathfinder and Mentor Schools are making the most of these benefits provided to them and are selected through a rigorous application process that includes written and video documentation. Pathfinder Schools have demonstrated a record of innovation that has transformed education and improved student outcomes in their education systems and local communities.

“I am enthusiastic about our designation as a Microsoft Innovative Pathfinder district because this designation will facilitate our sharing and reflecting on best practices with other innovative districts. This type of interaction leads to professional learning and ultimately to improved student achievement,” said Eric Williams, Ed. D., superintendent, York County School District.

“As the third-largest school district in the country, Chicago is committed to providing every student with the opportunity to succeed in a global economy,” said Mayor Rahm Emanuel of Chicago. “It’s innovative collaborations like this one with Microsoft that allow us to give parents a variety of options for a quality education that is best for their children.”

The following are the six U.S. schools inducted as Pathfinder Schools this year:

Lake View High School (Chicago). Lake View is a Chicago public school with an emerging schoolwide Early College STEM program. Lake View’s collaboration with Microsoft and DePaul University provides opportunities for students to develop 21st century academic, technical and life skills for college and beyond. Lake View offers an interdisciplinary Early College STEM program in three IT-related pathways: traditional STEM, arts and humanities. The school’s focus this year is to discover new pathways for increasing student learning in the real world. Through the Early College STEM program, students will be able to earn dual college credit and industry certifications before their graduation.

Great Falls Elementary School (Great Falls, S.C.). Great Falls teachers use a variety of effective technological strategies to engage students through an innovative, challenging curriculum that is focused on inquiry-based, hands-on learning. Teachers work collaboratively to create a culture of excellence by using technology to support learning across the curriculum to address the specific needs of students based on assessment data. As a Professional Development School with Winthrop University, teachers use the Lucy Camera to not only reflect on their teaching practices, but also to share what they have learned about effectively integrating technology into the curriculum with teachers locally and nationally. Great Falls Elementary provides an innovative professional learning culture that allows teachers to collaborate with schools across the world to gain professional knowledge and expertise in innovative instructional strategies.

Loudoun County Public Schools (Ashburn, Va.). Providing mobile devices, a robust wireless network and a learning management system allows Loudoun County Schools to teach with rigorous academic standards through the use of multimedia resources. Loudon County Public Schools developed The Power of Everyone: Collaborations in 21st Century, an instructional initiative designed to connect K–12 students and teachers with other educators from both formal and informal educational institutions around the world.

Birmingham Covington School (Bloomfield Hills, Mich.). The school is committed to being a Global Learning Hub where people can see, learn and participate in intellectually rich, future-orientated activities. Seeking to keep pace with real-world skills that will be demanded of students when they exit the public school system, Birmingham Covington conceived a project titled “Engage,” designed to engage students in problem-based and project-based activities that integrate elements of science, technology education and language arts, as well as the four elements of the enGauge 21st Century Skills: Digital-Age Literacy, Inventive Thinking, Effective Communication and High Productivity. The enGauge project is based on the premise that pre-K–12 schools should incorporate 21st century skills and proficiencies into school curriculum within the context of academic standards.

York County School Division (Yorktown, Va.). The school created a districtwide “bring-your-own-technology initiative” where emphasis is placed on Transformative Learning, meaning students master content and skills while making a difference locally, nationally and globally. Students and teachers bring their own technology to school to complement district-purchased devices. They connect to the district’s wireless network with smartphones, laptops, netbooks, tablets, e-readers, MP3 players and other Internet-ready devices to use the district network’s resources anytime, anyplace and from any device with an Internet connection.

Medina Elementary School (Medina, Wash.). The staff members at Medina are working to instill lifelong learning skills and strategies through a variety of methods, including using the district common curriculum, extensions inside and outside the classroom, and technology to ensure students are prepared for life. Medina staff members provide opportunities for support and extension of the curriculum through differentiation focus on 21st century learning and collaboration. Teachers participate in bimonthly professional development trainings based around application of 21st century learning in the classroom. Students have a half day of school each Wednesday (districtwide) to provide teachers with collaboration and planning time for instruction.

Mentoring for Success

Microsoft Innovative Mentor Schools go a step further to share best practices with Pathfinder Schools, help them develop a vision and help them implement a plan to transform the way their schools operate.

“McGlone Elementary’s participation in the Innovative Schools program has helped us increase student achievement by learning how to integrate new technology like netbooks, online learning environments, Promethean Boards, learner response systems and innovative teaching practices, such as letting students choose how they demonstrate their learning (videos, podcasts, Prezi, etc.), assigning and turning in work online, and collaborating with international students via videoconferencing and blogging,” said Daniel Sharpe, instructional technology leader, McGlone Elementary, Denver. “Partners in Learning allows both teachers and our students to collaborate with international schools to share knowledge and best practices. This year, as a Mentor School, we look to continue this wonderful program by coaching international schools to help them reach their potential in innovative teaching, technology and ultimately prepare students for the future.”

The following are this year’s Mentor School inductees:

McGlone Elementary School (Denver). The school is part of the School Turnaround program, an intensive intervention and leadership development initiative that helps principals turn around failing or underperforming schools. McGlone is using innovation to gain greater flexibility in certain areas of school operation such as curriculum and instruction, staffing, the use of time, and professional development. Students utilize 21st century learning strategies and high-quality resources. McGlone is committed to ensuring that all fifth-grade students’ transition to middle school with the academic skills, language skills and social skills they will need for success in secondary school, college and careers. It serves as a model for successful educational reform for schools across the country.

Highland Tech Charter School (Anchorage, Alaska). The school is dedicated to a mastery-learning model. Attention is placed on individual student learning needs through project-based learning that integrates technology as a key learning tool. Student voice and ownership is encouraged and expected. Multi-age learning environments demonstrate an emphasis on performance over (seat) time. The transparent curriculum is driven by standards, which details what students’ must know and be able to do to receive a diploma. The standards are aligned to local, state and national expectations and reviewed tri-annually. Students are involved in community service, shadowships and internships providing an extensive School to Work program. A commitment to continuous improvement through Performance-Based Learning, Share Leadership and a Shared Vision are the cornerstones to students’ success.

Representatives from the 2012–2013 Pathfinder and Mentor Schools will attend the Partners in Learning Global Forum, Nov. 28–Dec. 1 in Prague, Czech Republic. While there, these representatives will have the opportunity to participate in professional development workshops and network with innovative instructors from around the world who have been recognized by the program this year.

Today’s announcement coincides with World Teachers’ Day, established in 1994 by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization to celebrate the profession and to promote international standards for teaching.

The Innovative Schools Program is open to any primary or secondary school worldwide that has a focus on creating a culture of innovation that advances the use of Microsoft technology in the learning process, as well as enables students to develop 21st century skills. Schools must sign up for the Partners in Learning Network, a free network giving school leaders and teachers access to a broad range of resources, content, assessment tools, training events, videos, monthly virtual universities, participation in local-level Partners in Learning forums and the Partners in Learning School Research tool to help measure their own innovation. Those schools seeking a deeper level of engagement in the program can then apply to become a Microsoft Innovative Pathfinder School and work toward achieving Microsoft Innovative Mentor School status. More about Partners in Learning, and the opportunity to sign up for the network, is available at

About Microsoft Partners in Learning

Microsoft Partners in Learning is a 10-year, nearly $500 million commitment by Microsoft to help education systems around the world. Since its inception in 2003, the Partners in Learning program has reached more than 210 million teachers and students in 119 countries. Partners in Learning helps educators and school leaders connect, collaborate, create and share so students can realize their greatest potential. The online Partners in Learning Network is one of the world’s largest global professional networks for educators, connecting millions of teachers and school leaders around the world in a community of professional development.

About Microsoft

Founded in 1975, Microsoft (Nasdaq “MSFT”) is the worldwide leader in software, services and solutions that help people and businesses realize their full potential.

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