Louisiana's America2000 Technology Innovation Program
Macon Ridge, LA
Macon Ridge, Louisiana is a rural area spread out over 150 square miles in the northeast corner of the state. The region is home to five of Louisiana's poorest countiesor parishes, as they are known locally: Catahoula, Concordia, Franklin, Morehouse, and Tensas. The United States Department of Education (USDE) has designated Macon Ridge as a high-poverty area.
Poverty, school dropout, and teen pregnancy rates are among the highest in the state. Unemployment for the five districts typically hovers at 10% or more, with much of the employment opportunities being seasonal and related to agriculture or the oil industry. Cotton, corn, and lumber are the dominant industries.
Of the 16,200 students, 71.3% qualify for the free/reduced-price lunch program, 54.6% are African American, and 45.2% are white.
Beginning in 1994, members of the Concordia Parish school staff, including Personnel Director Leinda Peterman, won grant money that enabled them to purchase limited computer equipment and install 56K lines for high-speed Internet access in selected schools in Macon Ridge, Louisiana.
Excited about the potential for technology to provide access to resources that were otherwise unavailable in their rural system, the staff wanted to find additional ways to wire classrooms, provide broadband access, and train teachers. Libraries were limited or non-existent in many of the schools, and wiring the buildings was a way to break down barriers.
Looking for ways to enhance professional development in technology, Peterman sought out other districts with similar characteristics and needs in Macon Ridge. She found an opportunity to expand an existing partnership between Catahoula and Concordia Parish (County) School Systems. Those two districts asked three other districts to join them in applying for the America 2000 Technology Innovation Challenge Grant, a multi-million dollar grant offered through the United States Department of Education's Office of Educational Research and Improvement. Online professional development (OPD) was a key part of the proposal. The Macon Ridge group received the grant in 1998.
Today Peterman heads the America2000 Technology Innovation Challenge Grant for the five parishes that comprise Macon Ridge, and the grant is in its fifth year. The project has been approved for a sixth year but with no additional funding.
America2000's online professional development program evolved into a national training model that is now used in other districts. The new program, known as EdTech Leaders Online ?(ETLO) is implemented by the Education Development Center (EDC) in Massachusetts and funded in part by the AT&T Foundation. EDC cites Macon Ridge as a success story precisely because it integrates the online work into a complete professional development plan.
Parts of this text were reprinted or adapted with permission from "A District Story," in Mosaic: An EDC Report Series, Winter 2001. Available at http://www.edtechleaders.org/action/story.htm. Mosaic is a publication of the Education Development Center.