In October 2005, Cisco launched the 21st Century Schools (21S) initiative - a $40 million investment in a multiphase, three-year education initiative in the Gulf Coast region. The 21S initiative is aimed at creating a 21st century education model that improves the quality of education and encourages community growth and economic development. The initiative was developed to benefit areas impacted by Hurricane Katrina.

Beyond monetary and equipment donations, Cisco has committed 10 Cisco 21S Fellows for each of the three years of the program. Seven employees have relocated, leaving their homes to work full-time directly with the schools and communities in the Gulf Coast area.

During the first year of the initiative, the 21S Fellows built a foundation for school reform and community engagement that takes full advantage of new technologies to allow for long-term transformation. The team's approach focused on strategic planning and change management, instructional programs and teacher training, and the employment of networking technologies that best enabled and accelerated their efforts.

Each school engaged in a rigorous strategic planning process to develop their vision for 21st century education, establishing benchmarks for performance and identifying community engagement programs. When their vision and goals were defined, Cisco engaged education reform experts to assist the schools in researching new instructional practices and building teacher training programs. Finally, the 21S team provided guidance on how technology could be used to accelerate the benefits of the proposed solutions.

As a result, the schools are now deploying technologies such as wireless and IP telephony that allow for student, teacher, and administrative collaboration. We anticipate that this approach will ensure that successful solutions are integrated and sustained within the 21S schools and then established at districts and throughout the region.

There are three main components of the 21S Program:

  • Connected Schools: This ensures that each of the 41 schools involved in the program receive extensive network upgrades in the areas of data, voice, and video for improved administrative and classroom processes.
  • Connected Learning: The 21S team is helping each school implement technology-enabled teaching programs to promote student engagement and achievement. From June to August 2006, teachers at the 21S schools were trained to blend the new technologies into their lessons.
  • Connected Communities: This component of 21S is to establish each school as the hub of its community. This effort is well underway through our partnership with One Economy, which offers affordable computers and Internet access to families involved with schools in the 21S program.

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