2015 Administrator Trailblazer

Grant Smith

Avondale Elementary School District
2015 Winner for Administrator Trailblazer Award
About Administrator Trailblazer Award

Employs an audacious idea in order to empower teachers and students with the opportunity to learn school- or system-wide.

Provide an overview of the project, practice or product that your video represents, and how your work encompasses the principles and ideals of the award that you're applying for.

The project I headed as a trailblazing administrator is my All Kids Code Initiative. My project brought all of the 9 schools in the Avondale Elementary School District (AESD) into the 21st Century by replacing their outdated technology classes with year-round coding courses, required for all students. I curated the curriculum, trained all coding teachers weekly, and wrote a 250 page Computer Programming Curriculum Guide for K-8 that is available to the public. The change in our district happened on the first day of school, August 4, 2014. Students walked into their computer labs that day without knowing that their special area technology class would never be the same. They came to learn that we replaced their old lessons with coding curriculum. The students grew ecstatic at the prospect of creating, designing, making, and exploring with tools they had never used before. As educators, we tried to remove all boundaries and create an unlimited learning environment. One 6th grade student proudly stated that “with code I could create games and programs to cure cancer.” As the year progressed, some students became disillusioned as they realized that coding is hard work. I encouraged the teachers and they in turn pushed their pupils like coaches on the sideline during a playoff game. The children learned true grit and gained critical thinking skills. At the end of the school year, a 4th grade student decided that, “I would like to keep on coding because it can help you a lot in your lifetime. It can help me in collage [sic].” Statements like these are even more profound when one considers our demographics. All schools in the district are Title 1 with 86% free and reduced lunch and 77% minority students. What is unique about my project? There are many article about schools teaching computer programming. My project is trailblazing because of the students and scope. AESD is one of the few (or maybe the only) K-8 district that requires all students to take computer programming in every grade level as a dedicated, stand-alone class. I applaud the teachers and classes that study coding during their free time, or as a club. However, setting 40 minutes apart to code each day with specific coding instructors is fairly unique in the primary levels. Another unique aspect to my project is the professional development I provided to prepare our educators to teach coding. I used my experience in teaching coding and my degree in Information Systems to help our teachers become excellent coding instructors. My support included weekly trainings, frequent classroom visits, and content knowledge tutoring. The formerly classroom and technology teachers are more than ready to say “Hello World” to all of our students in their coding classes. I am grateful for the opportunity I have had to be a part of teaching thousands of underprivileged students how to code. The students, teachers, administrators, and community have shown a great deal of support for the initiative. I am proud that in the Avondale Elementary School District, All Kids Code.

Explain the long-lasting impact of what you've presented in this video, and provide any qualitative or quantitative data that supports this impact.

Mark Zuckerberg has famously predicted that, “In fifteen years we’ll be teaching programming just like reading and writing . . . and wondering why we didn’t do it sooner.” I am thrilled that I was able to make Zuckerberg’s prediction happen 15 years early at the Avondale Elementary School District. However, I knew that just setting up the curriculum and courses was not enough; I needed to make the change permanent. Since there are no real standards for our new coding courses, I decided to create a curriculum guide that would ensure fidelity and high achievement in the future. I wrote a 250 page, publicly available, curriculum guide that outlines what principles of computer programming students should learn starting in kindergarten all the way through eighth grade. I also paired each learning outcome with Math and ELA CCSS, NGSS, and CSTA standards. The AESD governing board recently adopted the guide as the official curriculum for the formerly “Technology Special Area” class. With the formal adoption of the curriculum guide I created, dedicated coding teachers, and a stand-alone class period for the classes, I am confident that All Kids Code is permanent part of the Avondale Elementary School District. p.s. I apologize my video does not follow your naming conventions. When I showed the video to my boss, she insisted that we use it on our website to promote All Kids Code so I had to change the name to something appropriate.