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Davidson Next Pilots Innovative Curricula in Charlotte

Davidson Next
After being piloted in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg schools, the AP instructional units created by Davidson Next will launch on the edX platform.

The Davidson Next initiative, a collaboration between Davidson College, edX, the College Board and 2Revolutions, has partnered with the Charlotte-Mecklenburg School System (CMS) to launch a pilot program to test a suite of online instructional units designed to improve educational outcomes in Advanced Placement (AP) courses. The units focus on calculus, physics and macroeconomics – AP topics identified as among the most challenging for teachers and students.

Davidson Next aims to make high-quality learning experiences accessible to students from all backgrounds, both inside and outside of the high school classroom. About to enter its second year in December, the project recently was awarded nearly $2 million in grant funding from the Laura and John Arnold Foundation.

"Davidson Next is exemplary of the college's dual commitment to educational excellence and access, and we are grateful to the Laura and John Arnold Foundation for their support of this initiative," said Davidson College President Carol Quillen. "This partnership demonstrates how colleges and universities can take an evidence-based approach to technology to build a wide, strong bridge from high school to higher education for every able student."

Four online units per course have been developed and distributed to 28 teachers, who will pilot the program in 20 CMS high schools, including: Ardrey Kell, Berry, Butler, East Mecklenburg, Garringer, Harding, Hopewell, Hough, Independence, Mallard Creek, Myers Park, North Mecklenburg, Northwest, Olympic BHPA, Olympic IBCS, Olympic Renaissance, Providence, South Mecklenburg, Vance and West Mecklenburg.

"The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools is thrilled with our partnership with Davidson College and the College Board, and the opportunity to create this innovative and rigorous blended learning opportunity for our Advanced Placement students," said Ann Clark '80, CMS deputy superintendent. "This partnership presents a unique opportunity for our students to access rigorous content in calculus, physics and macroeconomics. In addition, our high school teachers in these three subjects have received incredible professional development."

CMS is a national Broad Foundation Prize winner. The system enrolls more than 145,000 K-12 students in 164 schools throughout Mecklenburg County.

Davidson Next will deliver a total of 10 instructional units per AP course by the end of the year. Each unit blends online learning with classroom discussion and practice and includes interactive assignments and video lessons taught by experienced AP teachers from all over the country. The units are designed using data from the College Board that pinpoints the most difficult concepts in calculus, physics and macroeconomics.

Davidson faculty, who have written and graded AP exams, led AP summer workshops for high school teachers, and teach in these core subjects, are guiding the development of the unit content. The faculty work with high school AP instructors, who help to produce and evaluate the content, and with edX technologists and experts from College Board's test development committees.

After the pilot phase within CMS, the Davidson Next modules will launch on edx.org, where they will be available free-of-charge to students across the country and throughout the world. The project is expected to serve as a scalable model as technology companies, school districts, teachers and families increasingly seek to personalize learning opportunities and close educational gaps.

Davidson Next builds on research findings indicating that combining online and face-to-face instruction to create a blended learning format is more effective than each approach taken on its own. In addition, evidence suggests that disadvantaged high school students often lack adequate preparation for online courses.

These challenges have created strong demand for innovative approaches to help students access and master this material, and to expand access to college-preparatory classes for high-poverty schools.

"The Davidson Next Initiative offers a bold, transformational path to enhancing mastery of and access to college-preparatory material," said Kelli Rhee, Director of Venture Development at the Laura and John Arnold Foundation. "We believe that a level educational playing field for students of all backgrounds will go a long way to foster a culture in which individuals have the best chance to succeed and prosper."