As superintendent of Prince William County Public Schools, I made a commitment to provide equitable opportunities for all students, prepare all students for post-secondary education and the workforce, and prepare all staff members to support and challenge all students.
If experience taught me anything, it is that if we are going to achieve any of these goals, we need to be sure that everyone has access to the tools and opportunities they need to be successful.
After more than two decades of working in education, I have seen how digital resources can help students succeed. Still, if not done with intention, it can also increase the opportunity gaps between students who don't have the same access to those digital tools. Some schools may not have access because of a lack of funds, others because the teachers don't know where to look, and others because the educators don't know how to use the tools.
The best answer is to create a digital ecosystem with high-quality resources that every teacher in the division can easily access. That way, everyone has the same opportunities to access their needed resources.
In Prince William County, our goal is to ensure every school, teacher, and student has access to quality curriculum and digital resources as part of our digital ecosystem. We are working to accomplish this with the help of 1EdTech's TrustEd Apps Program and TrustEd Apps Management Suite.
We're training our instructional technology staff on how to vet the privacy policies of different digital tools to make sure they meet our standards while also gaining an understanding of how all the tools will work together. The management suite also makes it easier for our educators to find the resources they need, communicate best practices when using the tools, and understand why some tools aren't approved for use.
By limiting the number of apps and tools we use, putting them in one easy-to-access location, and making the same database available to every school in the district, we can ensure that all our educators and students have the same opportunities to access high-quality resources. The management suite also allows for innovation. If there is a tool or app that isn't approved, an educator just has to check to see if there is a reason we don't use it or if we just haven't heard of it yet. If it's new, we can vet the tool through our IT governance process and determine if it should be added to our list of resources or replace a tool that no longer serves its purpose.
When I arrived, some schools had more than 12 digital tools for one subject, while others had none. I believe in allowing educators the freedom to use the tools and resources they believe will best serve their students. Not all teachers will want to use these digital resources, but they need to know they can if they want to. I also want to be sure the tools they use are the best, meeting academic and security standards before they are used in a classroom.
About the Author
LaTanya D. McDade, Ed.D.
Dr. LaTanya D. McDade is the Superintendent for Prince William County Public Schools, the second-largest Division in Virginia and serves more than 90,000 students. She is the first woman and first African American to serve as Superintendent of the School Division. During her first seven months in office, she launched Vision 2025 Launching Thriving Futures. This ambitious four-year strategic plan serves as a framework for ensuring every student in Prince William County graduates with the knowledge, skills, and habits of mind to create a thriving future for themselves and their community.
Dr. McDade will speak at the K-12 Leaders Forum and Senior Executive Summit in November 2023. Click here to learn more.