High Point, NC -- Two Guilford County Schools posted big double-digit jumps in their end of grade test scores in the most recent school year and they did it in two very different ways.
Wiley Elementary School got $2.4 million in federal grants to help boost student performance -- and it worked. The school taught boys and girls separately, extended the school day, rewarded teachers and saw EOG proficiency jump from 52 percent, to more than 70 percent.
At Montlieu Academy, the results were equally impressive but the approach was vastly different. And the students say the secret to their success is an iPad. All 487 students got one this past year. And Montlieu's EOG proficiency skyrocketed from 59.3 percent to 72.1 percent.
But achievement isn't the only thing on the rise. Excitement and enthusiasm is at a high, too.
"You wake up every day saying, 'Oh, my gosh, [school's] boring,'" said 10-year-old Olivia McMasters. "Then you realize when you get to school, 'Oh, my gosh, I have so much to do. Oh, thank you!'"
Olivia is grateful to the people who've made going to school exciting. She and her little sister, Ryann, showed up at school Wednesday -- in the middle of the summer -- just to talk about how much they loved being here during the school year.
Why did they enjoy it so much? The technology.
"It's pretty cool!" 9-year-old Ryann McMasters said, holding her iPad.
It's easy to suggest students are just excited about playing with the gadgets. But these two say they're energized about learning now thanks to the interactivity.
"I love to wake up in the morning and just wake up to this," Olivia said of her experience at school. "It's very enjoyable."
Principal Ged O'Donnell gives the iPad its due in getting students and teachers excited about education again. But he says the improvements really boil down to a renewed sense of pride.
"Our students are told every single day that they go to the best school in Guilford County," O'Donnell said. "And if you ask any of our students at Montlieu what school do they go to, they will tell you they go to the best school in Guilford County."
There could be something to that, too. Montlieu now has a waiting list, for the first time ever. It's part magnet school, part community school. And the turnaround is even more impressive when you consider 96 percent of students there are on free and reduced lunch. The principal says it's the only elementary school in the state to make iPads available to every child.
Montlieu was able to lease all those iPads thanks to the $250,000 a year in grants it's getting over the course of three years from several local foundations and business donors. It's clear the technology is having an impact, and the Guilford County school system wants to apply those lessons to other schools.
But how can it do it that when budgets are tighter than ever?
"Our business community, our foundation community, our higher ed community [and] our non-profits have found ways to provide us resources in order for us to continue to do great work," GCS superintendent Maurice Green. "We'll continue to call on them and request of them to keep education as a top priority in our community."
Green said the system's also working with county commissioners to ensure they'll at least get the same amount of funding in coming years as they have lately.
WFMY News 2