When Hurricane Katrina devastated the U.S. Gulf Coast region in August 2005, it destroyed schools and displaced nearly 400,000 students. Through the 21st Century Schools Initiative, Cisco partnered with school systems to create a model for transforming education through better engagement of today’s students.
What: Engage students with 21st century tools and instruction
The historic hurricane became an opportunity for education leaders to change school systems and empower students. As one administrator put it, “The storm blew away a lot of things, including our feeling that we were stuck with things the way they were.” Cisco provided a multiyear, US$80 million investment in cash, product donations, and professional development to equip schools with technology tools that could help teachers engage students more deeply in learning.
- 22 Cisco Leadership Fellows relocated to the Gulf Coast to help develop a model for transformation.
- 7 school districts in Mississippi and 1 in Louisiana adopted long-term education reform.
- 54 schools equipped with interactive technologies: interactive whiteboards, projectors, student response systems, data collection tools, software, and web cameras.
- 100 interns trained to troubleshoot technical issues and assist teachers.
- 3500+ educators trained to use technology effectively in more student-centered instruction.
- 60,000 students prepared with 21st-century skills by using 21st century tools.
How: Public-private partnership for sustained change
Cisco built relationships with nonprofits, academic institutions, and technology companies to provide equipment and resources to multiply the impact of the initiative. The program focused on infrastructure, learning, leadership, and collaboration.
- From administrative offices to individual classrooms, the initiative established a connected, technology-rich infrastructure to engage students and support teachers.
- A robust, ongoing professional development program helped teachers facilitate more student exploration, discovery, and social interaction.
- Cisco Leadership Fellows helped district administrators realize their vision by applying their expertise to the challenges administrators faced.
- Cisco TelePresence solution, Cisco MeetingPlace solution, Cisco WebEx solutions enabled collaboration between teachers, administrators and their peers.
Evaluations conducted in 2009 found that participating schools experienced greater student engagement, higher test scores, higher graduation rates, lower dropout rates, and increased parental involvement. A follow-up study in 2013, four years after the end of Cisco’s support, shows how impact of the program continues to multiply.
- Most districts have expanded the initial vision by scaling up and sustaining the Initiative, despite budget cuts.
- Student achievement scores generally increased between 2007–08 and 2011–12 on nearly all state standardized tests and across all subjects.
- Districts report that technology is in constant use in classrooms as integration into the curriculum continues and one-to-one computing is expanded.
- Districts are employing data-driven decision-making in management and instruction, and have put in place administrative efficiencies using technology.
- Some districts have made advances in student engagement, based on positive attendance, graduation, and suspension rates.
- The 21st Century Schools Initiative has served as a model for Cisco engagement with schools in California, New York, and Sichuan Province in China.