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21st Century Schools - Rebuilding the school system in Hurricane Katrina territory

Author: Cate Newnessmith
Published Date: 1 October 2005

In October 2005, Cisco launched the 21st Century Schools (21S) initiative - a $40 million investment in a multiphase, three-year education initiative in the Gulf Coast region. The 21S initiative is aimed at creating a 21st century education model that improves the quality of education and encourages community growth and economic development. The initiative was developed to benefit areasaffected by Hurricane Katrina.

Beyond monetary and equipment donations, Cisco has committedten Cisco 21S Fellows for each of the three years of the programme. Seven employees have relocated, leaving their homes to work full-time directly with the schools and communities in the Gulf Coast area.

During the first year of the initiative, the 21S Fellows built a foundation for school reform and community engagement that takes full advantage of new technologies to allow for long-term transformation. The team's approach focused on strategic planning and change management, instructional programmes and teacher training, and the employment of networking technologies that best enabled and accelerated their efforts.

Each school engaged in a rigorous strategic planning process to develop their vision for 21st century education, establishing benchmarks for performance and identifying community engagement programmes. When their vision and goals were defined, Cisco engaged education reform experts to assist the schools in researching new instructional practices and building teacher training programmes. Finally, the 21S team provided guidance on how technology could be used to accelerate the benefits of the proposed solutions.