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Superintendent Johnson announces new iPad for every K-3 reading teacher

Superintendent Mark Johnson announced at Governor Roy Cooper’s Council of State meeting today that, using unspent Read to Achieve dollars, the state is buying a new iPad for every reading teacher in North Carolina. 

He said money from 2016 that was meant to go to classrooms never did, and after discovering this, he decided to repurpose the funds to make the purchase. In an email comment, he explained how the decision came to be. 

“The General Assembly began Read to Achieve because there is bipartisan consensus that early childhood literacy is a key metric for a student’s future success. Over the past 18 months, my team found that funds allocated to support Read to Achieve were in danger of being lost rather than going to classrooms across North Carolina,” he said. “Fortunately, we caught this error and, working closely with the General Assembly, were able to use a portion of these funds to provide iPads to K-3 reading teachers across North Carolina. These iPads are used to monitor student’s reading growth and help teachers identify where students are struggling.”

About $6 million went to make the purchases. For those districts that do not use iPads, the state will give them other devices using money from Read to Achieve. 

At the Council of State meeting, Johnson went on to say that the state Department of Public Instruction would be changing its practices to allow teachers to “spend less time assessing and testing and monitoring students with this device and more time using it to transform education.” 

He cautioned, however, that technology is not a silver bullet. 

“It should always be said that no matter how fancy and useful the device, it will never replace the teacher in the classroom,” he said. 

Harnett County Schools Superintendent Aaron Fleming said in a press release the iPads will be helpful for students in his district. 

“More iPads will allow us to provide more effective small-group literacy instruction in our K-3 classrooms,” he said. “These devices will allow us to further personalize learning for our students.”

Katie Gardner, a kindergarten teacher in Rowan-Salisbury Schools, said in the press release she finds her iPad helpful in connecting with her students. 

“My Apple iPad ignites my creativity in developing engaging language arts and literacy lessons,” she said. “The iPad supports my innovation in creating personalized and relevant tasks for my students to acquire and grow in literacy.”

The announcement today follows several other literacy announcements from Johnson this year. In March, Johnson announced that every reading teacher in the state would be getting $200 for literacy materials. That was also funded through Read to Achieve. And in May, he announced two professional development initiatives, also through Read to Achieve. One initiative is through the Hill Center, A Durham education nonprofit, which will train 400 teachers. This program is also funded in part by The Mebane Foundation. The other program, Wolfpack WORKS, is a partnership between DPI and the NC State College of Education that will help K-2 teachers teach literacy skills to their students.

Alex Granados

Alex Granados is senior reporter for EducationNC.