Second-Order Collaboration of Extremes

By Terry Grier/School Administrator, May 2015 

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                Terry Grier

There’s an Aesop’s Fable quality to the Houston Independent School District’s relationship with the Mooresville, N.C., Graded School District that might astound some — the idea of a 6,000-student system in rural central North Carolina coming to the aid of a 215,000-student urban system in the South.

    I subscribe to one of Aesop’s lessons that no being is too small to help a giant beast — and that the giant beast is smart to seek the assistance. Doing it right was all we cared about. Having an accomplished partner with measurable results willing to help us along our journey — no matter its size — was all we could ask for.

    No one was better than Mooresville, with one of the most successful one-to-one digital technology programs in the nation since 2008, to help navigate HISD through the challenges, pitfalls and joys of implementing our own PowerUp one-to-one initiative. The latter is intending to put laptops in the hands of each of our 65,000 high school students by 2016.

    We didn’t want to re-invent a wheel that Mooresville had successfully built. Our goal for this collaboration was to emulate Mooresville’s dramatic increase in academic achievement and graduation rates. The relationship was all about leveraging the lessons learned by Mooresville over the last eight years to jump-start HISD and our PowerUp initiative.

    The relationship our teachers and principals have established with Mooresville staff helped to take away the fear and uncertainty about one-to-one. They have been able to provide ideas, observe — and in some cases learn from HISD — all in a nonthreatening way. By Mooresville’s staff working directly with our teachers in Houston schools for the past two years, and our educators observing their classrooms in operation in North Carolina, we’ve been able to experience innovative digital instruction and take our students to a new level of learning — with nary a thorn in our giant paws.


Terry Grier is superintendent of the Houston Independent School District in Houston, Texas. E-mail: Twitter: @tgrierhisd