The Hill Center and Mooresville Graded School District: A Winning Partnership

by Jeanna White

In a continuing effort to ensure that ALL school children are given the opportunity to read and succeed, the Mebane Foundation has invested $1.9 million into its most exciting partnership to date; a collaboration between The Hill Center and the Mooresville Graded School District, which  is recognized both nationally and internationally for its 1-to-1 student technology initiative.

Launched in 2015, this three-year, $8.4 million literacy project unites these two high performing education organizations in a district-wide effort aimed at improving the reading achievement of struggling readers within MGSD elementary and intermediate schools. This partnership demonstrates how districts can leverage high quality professional development and technology to support individualized learning and improve overall reading results, especially for those students who are most difficult to reach – including those with learning differences, ADHD, or English Language Learners.

These two dynamic organizations are now combining their strengths to test and enhance the Hill Learning System (HLS), a digital version of the Hill Reading Achievement Program (HillRAP). This new format uses iPads rather than the traditional paper-based intervention, allowing teachers more flexibility in interacting with students in the 4-to-1 setting. The HLS iPad app includes teacher training and support, assessment, implementation, data collection, and the student learning experience. Through the HLS, data on all elements of HillRAP will be captured, analyzed, and delivered in ways that are meaningful to students, teachers, and to The Hill Center as it continues to refine and improve its programs and scalability.  

In 2007, MGSD began a transformation known in Mooresville as Digital Conversion, a process designed to leverage access to technology and digital resources to significantly enhance the level of student interest, motivation, and engagement in learning. This digital transformation was completed in 2015 with the purchase of 1,000 iPads for K-2students. Students in grades 3-12 had received laptops. As part of this transformation, MGSD also invested heavily in infrastructure to ensure high connectivity in and around all MGSD facilities.

The goals of this unique and innovative partnership are:

  1. Significantly increase MGSD reading student achievement in grades K-6 by 2018. This will be achieved through student access to devices and digital resources for personalized literacy learning, expanded HillRAP implementation, Hill professional development for MGSD teachers, and a high quality summer literacy program.
  2. Develop, test and refine the Hill Learning System iPad app and associated resources and supports. MGSD students and teachers will beta-test the HLS app, providing needed feedback for software development. Hill will continue refining the HLS software while also creating a new vocabulary and comprehension curriculum and developing a HLS teacher training and support model.
  3. Establish the MGSD-Hill Literacy Partnership as a model demonstration site for districts and schools. This partnership, and the Hill methodology and HLS app, have been highlighted to hundreds of district leaders from around the world via live radio broadcast and targeted sessions at the MGSD Summer Connection. The Summer Connection is an ongoing, world-renowned conference attended by an average of 350 educators per year. MGSD will host prospective HillRAP districts for site visits, Hill and MGSD will co-present and co-publish their findings at state and national conferences and in co-authored reports.

Results from the first year have been encouraging. Of the 91 MGSD students receiving HillRAP assistance in 2014-2015, 97% improved in overall text reading levels, with 6% improving more than 7 book levels, 44% improving 4-6 book levels, and 47% improving 1-3 book levels. Text reading comprehension results have also been positive with a middle of the year overall improvement of 84% for students in grades K-3 receiving HillRAP.

Feedback on the HLS app from both students and teachers has been overwhelmingly positive with 100% agreeing that it is easy to use and 100% of teachers indicating that it saved them time and helped them to implement RAP more efficiently.

Together, The Hill Center and the Mooresville Graded School District (MGSD) have made meaningful progress towards improving the reading achievement of struggling readers within MGSD elementary schools, further developing the Hill Learning System (HLS), and establishing a model partnership and demonstration site for HillRAP and HLS implementation.

For additional details on this exciting partnership, please download the original Hill Center and Mooresville Graded School District proposal and or the report of the first-year results