A few years ago, the Union City School District was in chaos, operating under threat of a takeover by the state of New Jersey for lack of performance and high transfer and drop-out rates. Now it boasts one of the most technologically advanced schools in the nation, Christopher Columbus School.
As part of an effort to revive the district, Bell Atlantic, a telephone and telecommunications company, agreed to make Columbus a test site to find out how educational telecommunications technology affects academic performance. The company provided this inner-city school with hardware, software, and personnel to wire it for Internet access, e-mail, and video conferencing. It also provided computers, modems, and productivity software, such as word processors and spreadsheets, for use in the homes of a test group of seventh- and eighth-grade students. These tools allowed students to complete homework assignments by searching the Internet for information and encouraged parents to communicate with teachers by connecting to the school's network.
In partnership with the Education Development Center in New York City, Columbus also redesigned its curriculum to emphasize cooperative group work, interdisciplinary learning, and critical thinking, while taking full advantage of the new technology. Since the project began, student performance and attendance have improved dramatically, while transfer rates are the lowest in the district.