Mark Edwards—the 2013 national superintendent of the year who taught thousands of educators how technology can play a pivotal role in improving academic results—will join Discovery Education in August, the company announced today.
Edwards, who has been superintendent of the Mooresville, N.C., school district since 2007, will be the senior vice president of digital learning for the Silver Spring, Md.-based company. Discovery Education provides digital content and professional development for K-12 classrooms around the world.
As superintendent for Mooresville, Edwards oversaw a digital conversion that incorporated an expansive 1-to-1 computing program, the use of ed tech to personalize learning, and collaboration among educators to produce academic results that won him national recognition, most notably from AASA-The School Superintendents Association.
Even with the district’s relatively low funding—it’s currently ranked 100th out of 115 districts in the state—the percentage of Mooresville students testing proficient or advanced on state end-of-grade tests has increased by 16 percentage points to 89 percent, second best in the state of North Carolina.
The “Mooresville way” of digital transformation drew national attention from President Obama, who launched his ConnectED program there, and through hundreds of educators from across the U.S. who have visited the town to learn from its community of educators.
In his new role at Discovery Education, Edwards will work with school systems worldwide to implement digital transitions similar to the one he oversaw in Mooresville, the company said in a statement. He will also lead “the evolution, expansion, and implementation of the company’s strategic vision,” and provide guidance across all aspects of the organization, including professional development, digital content, and educator community development, the company said in a statement. Educational partnerships, state outreach, product development, partner success, and corporate partnerships will be part of the strategic guidance and support he provides, the company said.
“Discovery Education is thrilled to welcome Mark to our innovative and growing global team,” said Bill Goodwyn, the company’s president and CEO. “His work in transforming teaching and learning in Mooresville, combined with his efforts to support the work of the educators from around the globe who have visited the district to witness first-hand his teams’ impact on students, makes him the perfect leader to support Discovery Education’s vision for the future of education.” (Goodwyn is on the advisory board for EdWeek Market Brief.)
Before joining Mooresville, Edwards served as dean for the University of Northern Alabama’s school of education and superintendent of the Henrico and Danville school systems in Virginia.
EdWeek Market Brief interviewed Edwards shortly after the announcement. Here’s an excerpt of that conversation:
What prompted your move to Discovery?
Bill Goodwyn and I go way back. I consider him both a friend and colleague, and Discovery Education has been one of our primary partners. They’re a company that has advanced excellence in digital content, and I’ve worked closely with them for years. I shared with Bill that I was open to looking at some opportunities, so we started a conversation, and ultimately I decided to make the move. I’m happy to have the opportunity to stay in Mooresville so our son can graduate from Mooresville High School.
You’ve worked before in the corporate world. What was your role?
I worked for two years as vice president of business development at Harcourt Assessment, but left that job to join Mooresville. I made this decision on an assurance and a lock that I know this is a great team, with a sense of efficacy for student success that has always been a hallmark.
How do you feel about leaving the superintendency?
I have some very strong emotions about leaving Mooresville Graded School District. It’s sad. You put your heart and soul into working with a team. We’re a family here, and I’m very proud of the district. This is a team that will continue to work well together.
What are you looking forward to doing first in your new position?
It will be to advance the position of Discovery as a leader…and as a company that represents thought leadership. I know I’ll have an opportunity to engage with thought leaders around the country and in other countries. And I’ll work with a team in terms of fine-tuning products and services, and to develop leadership within Discovery. Ultimately, I’ll be prepared to do whatever the team needs.
What do you think about the K-12 education marketplace?
The entire landscape has changed dramatically. There are new products and services emerging every day. The competition is fierce. It’s tough. But the opportunity is excellent. You will continue to see districts around the world moving to digital formatting, using digital resources as a primary means of instruction.
How does the Every Student Succeeds Act impact the marketplace now?
It dovetails with the marketplace as we’re looking at having accurate information about student progress, and having differentiated data about levels of student need. Also, I think that we’re going to see–both in federal and state policies–a merging to prepare students for their future, not our past. That future includes a robust digital environment. ESSA and state policies will dovetail nicely with the work that digital providers are focused on in the future.
What do you see as the challenges for districts at this time?
Perhaps the greatest challenge is diminishing resources to support public education. There are growing challenges related to the competitive environment in public education, with the onset of a large and growing charter environment. Other efforts around public education that may be moving toward privatization are challenging. I also think we’re seeing increases in children coming to school with greater needs, whether ELL students or students coming from poverty.
I’m a firm believer that the cornerstone of democracy is public education, and our commitment is essential for the long-term promulgation of democracy.
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