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WV first state to fully implement Project 24

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Schools across the state will integrate technology and digital learning into all classrooms, thanks to the state's partnership with Project 24.

Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin joined former Gov. Bob Wise, who now works for the Alliance for Excellent Education, which oversees Project 24, to announce the partnership April 17. Project 24 helps school systems plan for effective use of technology to help students reach career and college readiness. Improving student achievement and preparing students for college or careers beyond high school was one of Tomblin's goals for education reform.

"With today's technological advances, we have the opportunity to personalize learning and better meet the needs of each individual student," Tomblin said. "I believe by using technology we can unleash our students' potential. And let me tell you, our students are ready."

A school in Monongalia County implemented a "no pencil, no paper day" earlier this year in exchange for computers. Tomblin said he'd like to see other classes use similar techniques, but school districts must first identify problem areas and determine how best to implement technology in the classroom.

That's why the state partnered with Project 24, which currently has 500 school districts on board. West Virginia is the first state to fully implement the project statewide.

Wise said Tomblin's education reform bill and the Alliance for Excellent Education have the same goals -- to ensure students graduate from high school ready for college or career. One way to achieve that goal, Wise said, is through technology.

"What your legislation addresses is what every school superintendent, every educator, faces in the next two years, 24 months," Wise said. "You have to implement a higher set of standards that all students graduate from high school ready for college and career. In West Virginia and 45 other states, it's the Common Core standards."

Wise also pointed out that many school districts, West Virginia included, face budget constraints, so supporting teachers and technology could be difficult in some circumstances.

"We have greater challenges and at the same time we have some great tools to help our teachers," Wise said.

Over the next 24 months, school districts and states involved in the program will undertake a plan for how they will use digital learning in a comprehensive way to move education forward for both students and teachers, Wise said.

"Technology is becoming an evermore integral part of education, but teaching comes first," Wise said. "Where tech is a tool that enhances teaching, it does not displace teaching. It gives teachers more tools to truly be effective."

Mike Green, member of the West Virginia Board of Education, said many people were skeptical of the governor's education reform bill, but the bill passed thanks to relationships between stakeholders. Now that the legislation has passed, students have been given an advantage.

"In technology we often talk about things that are very, very difficult to accomplish." Green said.

"We've got to hit the road running and find a good way to use technology the most effective way we possibly can," he added. "It's more than just putting textbooks out of business and laptops in peoples' hands. It's about the opportunities we're going to give our kids to find great jobs in the 21st century."

As part of the program, officials will review classroom technologies and digital learning infrastructures across the state to identify any problems or issues. The review will include an assessment of current abilities, a plan of action and a proposed implementation of that plan. Once the plan is in place, schools can move at their own pace, Wise said.