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MOORESVILLE, N.C. – When President Obama visited our school district in June 2013 to unveil his ConnectEd initiative which would create high-speed broadband and wireless Internet in 99 percent of schools within five years, Mooresville Graded School District understood the importance of following through with this initiative.

The FCC vote to raise the cap on E-rate funding that is to take place Thursday, Dec. 11, will go a long way to making it happen.

Mark Edwards
Mark Edwards

Mooresville Graded School District understands the importance of connectivity for students because in 2007 we implemented a digital conversion.

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At the core, our digital conversion program is a one-to-one (1:1) laptop program in which every student in third grade to 12th grade, as well as nearly 500 licensed educational staff across the district, is issued a laptop.

Educators and learners alike have access to these instructional tools 24/7 for all 180 school days. The goal of our digital conversion is to integrate mobile technology, level the playing field for all students, and improve teaching and learning.

In 2007, there was a significant digital and economic divide among our students. There were students who had access at home to technology and resources, and some who had none. That was a real driving component: to create equity of opportunity for all.

Related: How can schools close the technology gap and how much will it cost?

But we also understood that a device is only as good as the infrastructure put in place to support its use. A laptop does a student limited good if the connectivity stops at the door of the school building. To the contrary, if we are to ensure that our students in America are being prepared for their future and not our past, then we must make sure that connectivity goes through the schoolhouse door to every student in every classroom.

“Just like individual connectivity shouldn’t stop at the school house door, making sure every child, every day has equal opportunities for a 21st century education shouldn’t stop until it has reached every child in America.”

With all of this in mind, Mooresville built a robust wireless infrastructure when we made the decision to become a high functioning 1:1 program. When installing our own network, we likened it to the movie Field of Dreams: “If you build it, they will come.”

When students have the opportunity to “log in” at school, they become more engaged. Through the use of online resources, teachers and students are much more able to personalize the learning experience.

But why do all this? What is the result? When students are engaged and education becomes relevant the most amazing result occurs — students are successful. Since implementing our Digital Conversion in 2007, we made steady progress from 38th out of 115 districts in North Carolina to 3rd last year as measured by students performing proficient or advanced on North Carolina’s state assessments. We were number one in the state for AMOs (annual measurable objectives) met.

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Our graduation rate has climbed by 26 percentage points from 64 percent to 90 percent. Our college going rate has increased, our scholarships received has increased, and our dropout rate has decreased. Helping students be successful … that is why we do this in Mooresville and why the E-rate funding cap needs to be lifted.

Mooresville Graded School District has a replicable model that many leaders believe will eventually become pervasive nation wide. With expanded E-rate funding, other schools across the United States will be given the opportunity to do for its students what Mooresville has done. Our motto for our school district is every child, every day.

Just like individual connectivity shouldn’t stop at the school house door, making sure every child, every day has equal opportunities for a 21st century education shouldn’t stop until it has reached every child in America.

Mark Edwards, Ed.D. currently serves as superintendent of the Mooresville Graded School District in Mooresville, North Carolina. In 2013, he was named National Superintendent of the Year by the American Association of School Administrators, as well as Common Sense Media’s Educator of the Year and is the author of Every Child, Every Day: A Digital Conversion Model for Student Achievement and Thank You for Your Leadership: The Power of Distributed Leadership in a Digital Conversion Model .

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