Bristol Tennessee City Schools has just over 4,000 students enrolled among five elementary schools, a single middle school, one brick-and-mortar high school, and a virtual high school. The district’s free and reduced lunch rate is just over 53%, with the rate at some of the four Title I schools significantly higher.
Broken Arrow Public Schools, in Oklahoma, serve more than 18,000 students with a mission to “educate, equip, and empower a community of learners by providing dynamic learning opportunities which enable all students to be successful.” However, the district was dealt a substantial blow when their budget for the 2016-2017 school year was cut by 7.3 million dollars. Fortunately, two years prior, a Broken Arrow Science Specialist had begun to urge the administration to move away from the standard textbook toward a more cost-effective alternative. After extensive research, planning, and collaboration, Broken Arrow has been able to mitigate some of their financial burden while providing their students with a higher quality of education with the aid of openly licensed educational resources, or OER as they are more commonly known. OER allow teachers to curate and design educational resources that are free and legal to reuse, remix, revise, retain, and redistribute.
Prior to arriving in San Diego County, Dr. Benjamin Churchill, superintendent of Carlsbad Unified School District, had only known #GoOpen second-hand from posts trending on Twitter. When Dr. Churchill arrived to the Southern California region, he learned that over 10 districts in the region were participating in #GoOpen. Within a few months of starting as superintendent, he and his district team excitedly agreed to join the #GoOpen movement. Dr. Churchill quickly went to work reaching out to superintendents from local #GoOpen districts in order to learn about their experiences using openly licensed educational resources or OER as they are commonly known. “OER,” he stated, “allow teachers to curate and design educational resources from materials that are free to use and alter, and for Carlsbad Unified, they presented an opportunity to engage teachers and give them a platform to learn, share, and create resources with an active community of innovators”.
The Chesterfield County Public Schools vision for the future is preparing every student to adapt and thrive in a rapidly changing world. The district sees committing to #GoOpen as a natural extension of the work underway in implementing its strategic plan, Design for Excellence 2020.
Clark County (NV) School District (CCSD) is the fifth largest district in the nation, with over 318,000 students. CCSD was prompted to #GoOpen because the size of the district makes it cost prohibitive to purchase licensed software for mass distribution. With the goal of having 100,000 students in an online or blended learning environment, openly licensed educational resources (OER) allowed CCSD to develop high quality online secondary courses with interactive learning activities that engage and motivate students. Developers of the CCSD Innovative Learning Environments course look for proven organizations in the industry, that have high quality content and demonstrate longevity in the industry, so that they are assured of continued open access in the CCSD district-developed online courses. This small team of four teachers on special assignment, three college interns, and an administrator, with lots of subject matter experts throughout the district, is building a catalog of online courses for grades 6-12 that are freely available to all CCSD teachers.
The Fallbrook Union Elementary School District, located in north San Diego County, serves approximately 5,200 kindergarten through eighth grade students in eight schools. The geographical boundaries of FUESD contribute to the unique population it serves. Stretching from the I-15 corridor to the Pacific coast, and encompassing over 110,000 acres of Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, FUESD serves a uniquely diverse population of students who represent military-connected families, English-language learners, students from economically disadvantaged backgrounds, as well as students from more affluent families.
Natick Public Schools is a suburban school district located southwest of Boston. The school community has about 5,400 students and 600 educators. Grace Magley is the Director of Online learning in Natick, and her office was established to strengthen and deepen the district’s implementation of digital technologies in support of deeper learning and personalization.
With its mission to “maximize student learning, achievement, and development,” the Fox Chapel Area School District in Pennsylvania strives to become one of the top-performing public school districts in the country — a daunting task for any district. In 2012, Fox Chapel created a strategic plan that would help it achieve that goal. The plan utilized Openly Licensed Educational Resources (OER) that allow teachers to revise, remix, and redistribute educational resources without violating copyright law. They decided to start by only using OER as supplemental materials, so the faculty could be eased into the emerging idea. At first, OER was used less than expected as other priorities took precedence. However, district leaders say it gave teachers time to explore the notion and implementation of OER in the classroom, preparing them for the #GoOpen initiative.
Hollister R-V School District, in Missouri, underwent sweeping changes to their curriculum ten years ago when use of Openly Licensed Educational Resources (OER) was implemented by its administration, and teachers were asked to phase out the use of textbooks. Although curated OER is readily available to Hollister now, OER was not easily attainable when they started this journey, requiring teachers to convert existing material into an OER format that other teachers could use to create new content. Sandy Leech, the Assistant Superintendent of Instruction, was a second grade teacher at the time. She says “it was definitely the right call to adopt OER into the system, but it was difficult to manage the conversion, creation, and curriculum writing while running the class.” However, while some skeptics remained, Ms. Leech and the faculty met the challenge and embraced OER as they were given the freedom and opportunity to create novel teaching methods and resources.
The Williamsfield School District is a small, rural district serving approximately 300 students in one building—Pre-K through 12th grade—with fewer than 100 students attending the high school. Located in a village of 650 residents, the school is the hub of the community. Several staff and faculty members have deep familial ties to the village, reflective of a community whose size and demographics have remained relatively consistent over the years.
With a focus on its Excellence, Equity and Engagement goals, Lawrence USD 497 has earned a reputation for offering students an exceptional educational experience. The district serves roughly 11,000 students among fourteen elementary schools, four middle schools, two high schools, and two virtual schools. Keys to success in Lawrence include high-quality staff, bright and talented students, actively involved parents, supportive business/community partners and a resource-rich university community, where education is valued.
Liberty’s systemic approach to implementing openly licensed educational resources started with making the decision a year ahead about which textbooks and instructional materials would be replaced by openly licensed educational resources. The district also developed a strategy for implementing intensive professional learning for the teachers who would be most affected by the change. Jeanette Westfall, Director of Curriculum at Liberty Schools, explained, “A year ago when we first started moving toward the inclusion of open educational resources (OER) in educators’ practice, it was a “thing” and now it is a standard expectation for all courses to consider use of OER compared to proprietary and free resources as they go through curriculum review and alignment.”
When Lewis Central Community Schools, a district of K-12 schools located in Council Bluffs, Iowa, first considered adopting openly licensed educational resources (OER), they planned to use them to replace an outdated set of textbooks at the high school level. Teachers and students commented that their textbooks were often outdated upon arrival to the classroom and didn’t provide what they were looking for in terms of content and flexibility. Joining the #GoOpen movement and adopting openly licensed educational resources presented Lewis Central with a unique opportunity where teachers would shift from using outdated materials to curating and designing their own instructional resources using OER.
Mentor Public Schools has spent the past four years rethinking and revitalizing the instructional program for our students. Focusing on balancing the instructional methods available to our educators has allowed the district to move the student experience toward a scenario where the best possible techniques, from the high-tech to the more traditional, are used appropriately for each individual student. #GoOpen offers the district the opportunity to reallocate funds previously earmarked for instructional content towards tools, training, and resources to help their teachers be more effective. At the same time, the skills necessary to select and implement openly licensed educational resources (OER) are some of the same skills the district wants to instill in its student population – the ability the seek out content, verify its authenticity, synthesize it, and apply it to a task. The shift to OER through #GoOpen is critical in the next phase of this educational evolution.
Like many school districts around the country, Puyallup School District in Washington, has a strong desire to provide the highest quality education for students with an emphasis on equity and social justice. With the recognition of dwindling resources, the school board tasked the district to evaluate and reconceive how they use instructional materials in all courses.
Vista Unified School District serves a diverse population of students, including more than 3,000 in special education programs and more than 6,000 who are English Learners. Enrollment has declined over the last several years from about 26,000 students in 2000 to about 22,000 in 2012. Vista Unified is committed to meeting the needs of ALL of students and we are committed to providing students with the appropriate tools, support, and materials they need to become successful adults. We also want to promote engagement and purpose for everyone.