4-page Case Study
Posted: 5/23/2012
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Washington State Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction Washington State Ensures Equal Access to Technology Skills Training and Certifications

Charged with overseeing K-12 public education in Washington State, the Washington State Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) sought a way to provide all high school students with equal access to technology skills. OSPI is now meeting this need through a statewide rollout of the Microsoft IT Academy—a subscription-based program designed to help schools provide students, faculty, and staff with access to IT skills training and certification. Students will be better-prepared to succeed after high school with knowledge and credentials that are aligned with the needs of business and industry, and teachers will have new opportunities for professional development. Just as important, such benefits will be within the reach of all students and school districts, regardless of individual economic circumstances or local budgets.

Situation
The Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) oversees K-12 public education in Washington State. Led by Superintendent Randy Dorn, OSPI works with the state’s 295 school districts to administer basic education programs and implement education reform on behalf of more than 1 million public school students.

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* The Microsoft IT Academy is a game-changer for the entire state. It will put Washington at the forefront in helping students prepare to enter the twenty-first century workforce. *

Randy Dorn
Superintendent of Public Instruction, Washington State Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction

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When Dorn took office in January 2009, he established a set of priorities to guide his tenure. These included expanding career and technical education programs and offering clear pathways to industry-recognized certifications—something he deemed essential to helping students succeed after high school. In 2011, with Dorn’s support, the Washington State Legislature added technology literacy and fluency to the state’s definition of a basic education.

“In the past, school districts often used tax levies for technology, which led some people to think of technology skills as something outside the definition of a basic education,” says Dorn. “This goes contrary to the fact that half of all jobs today require some technology skills, which is expected to grow to three out of four within 10 years.”

Equality of access was just as important to Dorn. With classes for technology skills training left up to each school district, student access to those classes—and the specific software programs and skills that were taught—varied based on each district’s leadership and budget. Even in schools where technology skills were taught, the certification exams needed to show potential employers that students had indeed mastered those skills were still cost-prohibitive for many students.

For Dorn, the biggest challenge wasn’t in deciding what role OSPI should play in providing equal access to technology skills and certifications; rather, it was finding a way to make it happen in the midst of a state budget crisis. “Per our constitution, it’s the state’s ‘paramount duty’ to amply fund basic education,” he says. “And because our definition of a basic education now includes technology literacy, OSPI must take the lead in finding a way to provide equal access to technology skills and certifications that are aligned with the needs of business and industry. I’m sure most would agree that such a goal is worthwhile, but that doesn’t make it any easier to ask the legislature for additional funding when there are so many valid needs.”

Solution
The solution to OSPI’s challenge came in December 2010, when Dorn first heard about the subscription-based Microsoft IT Academy Program, designed to help schools provide students, faculty, and staff with access to IT skills training and certification. “I saw the Microsoft IT Academy Program as an opportunity to ‘go big’ and tell the legislature, ‘This is exactly what we need in our schools, and it’s affordable,’” recalls Dorn. “Even though nobody was asking for new money, I felt it was important enough to try—and made a commitment to take it to the legislature.”

Dorn convinced legislators to provide US$4 million in funding for the budget biennium beginning July 1, 2011, enough to fund a statewide rollout of the Microsoft IT Academy Program and certification exams for all students enrolled in it. “The Microsoft IT Academy Program offers great value,” says Dorn. “Without partnering with Microsoft, it would have cost several times as much to implement a similar program statewide.”

Under the program, all Washington high school students, teachers, and staff will have equal access to licenses for Microsoft software, an e-learning environment, official Microsoft courseware, Microsoft-approved testing centers, and a wealth of other resources—essentially everything needed to learn real-world technology skills and earn industry-recognized certifications such as Microsoft Office Specialist (MOS) or Microsoft Technology Associate (MTA).

Students will also have access to:

  • The Microsoft E-Reference Library, consisting of more than 120 Microsoft Press books.

  • The Microsoft Digital Literacy program, which is available in more than 30 languages and is designed for students who are new to computing skills.

  • The Microsoft E-Learning Curriculum, which includes more than 350 multimedia courses designed to provide students with a hands-on learning experience.

  • Career Forward “Soft Skills” Curriculum, a 20-hour online course geared to helping students take control of their education, careers, and personal finance, and to introduce them to entrepreneurship.

  • Microsoft TechNet, which provides a wealth of resources for mastering IT professional concepts and skills.

  • Microsoft Live@edu program, which provides access to online Microsoft Office Web Apps.

  • Microsoft DreamSpark, a program that provides students and teachers in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) disciplines with access to Microsoft software developer tools and platforms.

  • Microsoft EduConnect, a program in which Microsoft employees volunteer in schools to help students stay safe online, learn about careers in technology, get excited about and prepared for the future, and more.

Teachers also will receive official Microsoft learning curricula, professional development aids, and resources to help tailor their instruction. These include lesson plans, prepackaged projects and other hands-on activities, sample questions to use in helping students prepare for tests, and an Instructor Learning Management System to help them manage their students’ E-Learning courses, send class communications, and monitor student performance.

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* I saw the Microsoft IT Academy as an opportunity to ‘go big’ and tell the legislature, ‘This is exactly what we need in our schools, and it’s affordable.’ *

Randy Dorn
Superintendent of Public Instruction, Washington State Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction

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OSPI decided to begin with a limited rollout to 50 schools during the 2011–2012 academic year, a number that grew to 63 due to unanticipated demand. The Microsoft IT Academy Program is now available to all 703 Washington State high schools, tribal schools, and skill centers, with more than 600 schools already enrolled for the 2012–2013 school year. The program is also available to all state high school teachers and staff.

OSPI also decided to take advantage of the experience and expertise of CCI Learning Solutions, a member of the Microsoft Academy Service Partner program, to assist with rollout and management of student certification. “The partnership between Microsoft, CCI Learning, and OSPI has benefitted Washington State by ensuring that all high schools that want to can become certified testing centers, and that the certification exam benefit is successfully deployed statewide,” says Kathleen Lopp, Assistant Superintendent for Career and College Readiness at OSPI.

Experience with the program’s rollout to date has been positive. “Microsoft’s commitment to a successful statewide rollout has been phenomenal,” says Lopp. “We have weekly conference calls, with any issues immediately addressed. Microsoft has also devoted significant resources to raising awareness of the program, mapping courseware and certifications to our curriculum, and training teachers. We couldn’t have asked for better support.”

As of April 2011, 5,067 exams have been attempted. More than 1,200 students and 133 teachers and staff have successfully passed an exam, earning 1,391 certifications. There are 391 schools that have already been set up as testing locations where participants can take their certification exams.

“Students and teachers have been quick to recognize the value of the Microsoft IT Academy Program,” says Dorn. “A big selling point for students is that they won’t just learn what the teacher knows; instead, they’re learning what Microsoft knows.”

With statewide rollout of the IT Academy Program now successfully underway, Dorn envisions integrating it with other OSPI efforts such as Navigation 101, a guidance and counseling program designed to help students make clear, careful, and creative choices for college and career readiness in the areas of course selection, goal setting, and career planning.

Benefits
Through statewide rollout of the Microsoft IT Academy Program, OSPI is providing all Washington high school students, teachers, and staff with equal access to real-world technology skills and certifications. Students will be better-prepared to succeed after high school, and teachers will have new opportunities for professional development. All stakeholders in the state’s education system will also benefit from an always current technology skills curriculum, helping to ensure that students, teachers, and staff are always learning about the latest information technology.

Skills and Certifications to Help Students Succeed
Under the Microsoft IT Academy Program, students will receive technology skills training and certifications that are aligned with the needs of business and industry, helping them be better-prepared to enter the workforce and compete for jobs. “Putting technology training and certification in every high school in Washington State will bridge the gap between the world of education and the world of work, helping to ensure the employability and global competitiveness of our students and future workforce,” says Dorn.

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* Microsoft’s commitment to a successful statewide rollout has been phenomenal…. We couldn’t have asked for better support. *

Kathleen Lopp
Assistant Superintendent for Career and College Readiness, Washington State Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction

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At Kamiakin High School in southeast Washington, where a computer applications class or a passing grade on a competency assessment is a graduation requirement, the Microsoft IT Academy will reach a vast majority of all students. The school leads the state in certifications to date, with more than 265 having already been earned. Olivia Clizbe, who has taught computer applications classes at Kamiakin for several years, can attest to the difference the Microsoft IT Academy Program is making. “The Microsoft IT Academy is helping students achieve a greater mastery of the applications—along with the means to prove that knowledge to prospective employers,” she says.

Clizbe and her students also see strong value in the certifications. “Students normally aren’t eager to take tests, but they look forward to these certification exams because they know they’ll receive something valuable in return,” she says.

Equal Access for All
In the past, budget issues prevented some school districts from teaching students important technology skills. OSPI’s rollout of the Microsoft IT Academy Program ensures ‘equality of access’ to every school district, high school, and high school student in Washington state, regardless of location, school or district size, or economic considerations. “Every high school student in Washington will have equal access to valuable technology skills and industry-recognized certifications, regardless of his or her economic circumstances,” says Dorn.

Clizbe, who earned her degree in Business and Marketing Education seven years ago, echoes this sentiment. “When I took similar computer applications classes in college, I couldn’t afford the certification exams,” she recalls. “It’s great to see that OSPI has found a way to put industry-recognized certifications within reach of all students, regardless of their financial situations.”

Self-Paced Access to Advanced Technical Training
Classes offered to Washington high school students through the Microsoft IT Academy go beyond the scope of Microsoft Office applications. Students also have access to classes that span the spectrum of IT industry skills, such as those required to implement and support Microsoft server software—technology used by the majority of all businesses today. “Because the Microsoft IT Academy is web-based, a student who might become bored with the pace of classroom instruction can learn at his or her own pace,” says Dorn. “If a student develops a real passion for information technology, he or she can use the Microsoft IT Academy Program to pursue that interest.”

Professional Development Opportunities for Teachers and Staff
Adoption of the Microsoft IT Academy will also benefit Washington state high school teachers and staff, who can take advantage of it to meet professional development requirements, learn skills that can help them in their jobs, or pursue a personal interest in technology. “For teachers, professional development opportunities offered through the Microsoft IT Academy are just as important as the technology certifications,” says Dorn. “Best of all, teachers can complete courses offered through the program at their own pace and from home, which isn’t always the case with professional development opportunities.”

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* The Microsoft IT Academy is helping students achieve a greater mastery of the applications—along with the means to prove that knowledge to prospective employers. *

Olivia Clizbe
Teacher, Business and Marketing Department, Kamiakin High School

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The Business and Marketing Department at Kamiakin High School has adopted the Microsoft IT Academy Program as part of its personal growth plan, which means that the time Clizbe has spent earning her own two Microsoft Office Specialist certifications will apply toward the 150 professional development hours she must complete for renewal of her teaching certificate.

Always Current Curriculum
OSPI can rest assured that students will always be taught the latest Microsoft technology and not be expected to make due with older versions of Microsoft software because budgets prevent purchasing the newest version. “With the Microsoft IT Academy Program, students will always learn the latest and greatest software and technology skills, which is critical considering the rate of change with respect to information technology,” says Dorn. “Not only will this help keep students interested in learning, but it will increase their value in the eyes of prospective employers.”

Twenty-First Century Approach to Education
With its rollout of the Microsoft IT Academy Program, the state of Washington joins North Carolina, Virginia, and Hawaii in providing statewide access to technology skills and certifications. North Carolina piloted the program during the 2010–2011 school year and expanded it statewide for 2011–2012. Virginia is on a similar schedule to Washington, with a limited rollout in 2011–2012 and a statewide rollout planned for the following year. In November 2011, the Hawaii State Public Library System (HSPLS) became the first statewide public library system to adopt the Microsoft IT Academy and Digital Literacy programs, which it plans to make available to all library patrons in Hawaii—expected to reach nearly 1 million people across the state.

“The Microsoft IT Academy is a game-changer for the entire state,” concludes Dorn. “It will put Washington at the forefront in helping students prepare to enter the twenty-first century workforce.”

Microsoft IT Academy
The Microsoft IT Academy Program is a global IT education solution that is designed to help schools ensure the success of their students and their educators. With access to the latest training resources for Microsoft technologies, educators can prepare their students to enter the workforce with IT skills that are in demand by employers.

For more information about the Microsoft IT Academy Program, please go to:
www.microsoft.com/education/msitacademy

For More Information
For more information about Microsoft products and services, call the Microsoft Sales Information Center at (800) 426-9400. In Canada, call the Microsoft Canada Information Centre at (877) 568-2495. Customers in the United States and Canada who are deaf or hard-of-hearing can reach Microsoft text telephone (TTY/TDD) services at (800) 892-5234. Outside the 50 United States and Canada, please contact your local Microsoft subsidiary. To access information using the World Wide Web, go to:
www.microsoft.com

For more information about CCI Learning Solutions, visit the website at:
www.ccilearning.com

For more information about the Washington State Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction, visit the website at:
www.k12.wa.us

Solution Overview



Organization Size: 400 employees

Organization Profile

The Washington State Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) works with the state’s 295 school districts to administer basic education programs and implement education reform. OSPI has 400 employees and is based in Olympia, Washington.


Business Situation

OSPI wanted to provide all high school students with access to technology skills training and certifications that are aligned with the needs of business and industry.


Solution

The state is providing all high school students, faculty, and staff access to the Microsoft IT Academy, a subscription-based program designed to help schools provide access to IT skills training and certification.


Benefits

  • Skills and certifications to help students get ready for college and career
  • Equal access for all state high schools and students
  • Access to advanced technical training
  • Professional development opportunities for teachers


Software and Services
Unspecified Product

Vertical Industries
Education

Country/Region
United States

Languages
English

Partner(s)
CCI Learning Solutions

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