School & District Management

IBM Attracts Praise For ‘Reinventing Education’

By Andrew Trotter — January 10, 2001 4 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

School districts and states that took part in the International Business Machines Corp.'s “Reinventing Education” program have shown that technology—coupled with other school improvement measures—can help bolster students’ reading skills and improve teacher-parent communication and management of school information, according to an independent assessment of the program.

“What had to be in place at the senior level was a real commitment to a real school reform plan,” said Bob Spielvogel, a senior scientist at the Center for Children and Technology in New York City who conducted the research. He presented his findings to a group of educators and IBM officials during a December conference at the company’s offices here.

Mr. Spielvogel said the school leaders who succeeded also tended to be realistic about the challenge of devising new ways of using technology. “Those people who look at technology as a silver bullet have not got the political staying power [to allocate] time, leadership, and money,” he said.

IBM launched Reinventing Education in 1994 to combine the computer company’s research, technical, and consulting muscle with the experience and expertise of school personnel at an early stage in the development of high-tech tools.

The original partners, selected in 1994 and 1995, were West Virginia and Vermont and eight urban districts: Broward County, Fla., which includes Fort Lauderdale; Charlotte-Mecklenburg, N.C.; Chicago; Cincinnati; Dallas; Philadelphia; San Francisco; and San Jose, Calif. These sites have all spent their grant money, in some cases a couple of years ago. IBM provides an initial financial commitment that is set up to last about 3 to 5 years.

Still, all but one of the original projects continue, financed by the districts and states, and with the company’s continued collaboration. The second round of sites, announced in 1997, were New York State, Maryland, South Carolina, and Texas; and the public school systems of Atlanta; Boston; Detroit; Houston; Memphis; New York City; Rochester, Minn.; and Durham, N.C. According to Mr. Spielvogel, the only Reinventing Education project that failed was in the Dallas schools, where district officials had hoped to use technology to raise science and math achievement.

“Dallas had a number of projects at the same time that its leadership was under crisis. They couldn’t commit to the program,” which was discontinued by mutual agreement after one year, Mr. Spielvogel said. Dallas has had six different superintendents in the past seven years.

Other failures have been avoided largely because IBM has chosen the recipients for the grants carefully, Mr. Spielvogel said.

Robin Willner, who supervises the projects for IBM, agreed. “We picked our partners very well: All were doing well, and they had a vision for getting better,” she said.

International Interest

Beyond that, Ms. Willner pointed out that the $35 million the company spent on all the grants was magnified by the time and effort of many individual IBM employees. “On any given day, there are 30 or 40 people in the IBM research lab working on solving problems in Reinventing Education projects,” Ms. Willner said. For example, “Learning Village"—an IBM software tool used by schools in the program—was “rewritten from scratch four times,” she said.

Learning Village is a collection of software communication and data-sharing tools that are known in the business world as “groupware.” They have been specialized for education to include tools to create student portfolios and teacher lesson plans online. Other tools developed from Reinventing Education projects include d software, tools, and instructional software for reading. (“IBM Shares Results From Field-Tests of Technology,” Feb. 26, 1997.)

The success of the program is now attracting worldwide interest. Reinventing Education went global in 1999, and now includes projects in Brazil, Ireland, Italy, Singapore, the United Kingdom, and Vietnam.

Stanley S. Litow, the president of the IBM International Foundation and the vice president of the company’s corporate- and community-relations division, said he has learned that despite differences in the ways education is governed, organized, and conducted in different countries, the similarities are more profound: All nations must train skilled teachers, assess students, find ways to engage parents in their children’s learning, and use data to make decisions, he said.

But success does not come easy, Mr. Spielvogel said. Having studied the program since 1995, he said that the collaboration between the company and the school districts and states has been uncommonly deep and effective. But it also hinged on a good selection process for partners, clear and meaningful goals, and effective school leadership.

Mr. Spielvogel said the initial experiences of Reinventing Education participants were “fraught with lots of problems,” many stemming from using experimental software and having to coordinate the new processes with human behavior and managerial logistics. “You’re talking about organizational- behavior change—even modest amounts [of such change] are difficult,” he said.

Related Tags:

A version of this article appeared in the January 10, 2001 edition of Education Week as IBM Attracts Praise For ‘Reinventing Education’

Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Mathematics Webinar
Pave the Path to Excellence in Math
Empower your students' math journey with Sue O'Connell, author of “Math in Practice” and “Navigating Numeracy.”
Content provided by hand2mind
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Recruitment & Retention Webinar
Combatting Teacher Shortages: Strategies for Classroom Balance and Learning Success
Learn from leaders in education as they share insights and strategies to support teachers and students.
Content provided by DreamBox Learning
Classroom Technology K-12 Essentials Forum Reading Instruction and AI: New Strategies for the Big Education Challenges of Our Time
Join the conversation as experts in the field explore these instructional pain points and offer game-changing guidance for K-12 leaders and educators.

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

School & District Management What's Stopping Later School Start Times That Support Teen Sleep? Bus Schedules, for One
See practical strategies for districts looking to move start times to accommodate teen sleep schedules.
5 min read
Crossing guard Pamela Lane waves at a school bus passing her intersection as she crosses students going to Bluford Elementary School on Sept. 5, 2023, in Philadelphia.
Crossing guard Pamela Lane waves at a school bus passing her intersection near Bluford Elementary School on Sept. 5, 2023, in Philadelphia.
Alejandro A. Alvarez/The Philadelphia Inquirer via AP
School & District Management Opinion 'I Used to Think School Systems Were Broken': Educators Reflect
Changing your mind or evolving your thinking is not easy. Hear how these education leaders did just that.
1 min read
Used to Think
Hear how these Harvard education graduate students evolved their thinking around both their practice and work as systems leaders.
School & District Management Opinion I Teach Educators How to Change Their Minds. Here’s How
Four important lessons for how educators—school and district leaders, especially—can create opportunities for growth.
Jennifer Perry Cheatham, Erica Lim & Carmen Williams
5 min read
Video stills
The students from the Leaders of Learning class taught by Jennifer Perry Cheatham at the Harvard Graduate School of Education last year.
Vanessa Solis/Education Week
School & District Management After Teachers, America's Schools Spend More on Security Guards Than Any Other Role
New estimates from the Urban Institute indicate school resource officers cost more than $2 billion every year.
4 min read
Illustration of Police silhouettes and a subtle dollar sign to show SRO funding
Wildpixel/iStock