Horry County Schools
Updated May 15, 2019
Powering personalized learning
Conway, South Carolina
Horry County serves a growing and diverse community; on the east end of the county is Myrtle Beach, a hub of the state’s tourism industry, and on the west end of the county is a more rural community. The county’s school district—Horry County Schools—serves over 42,000 students, and central to their mission is personalizing learning to engage students in their education. Edi Cox, Executive Director of Online Learning, shares that the school district’s vision came from collaboration “with the business community, the South Carolina Chamber of Commerce, and what employers were telling the South Carolina Department of Education they were looking for in new employees.” The profile included not only academic skills but the ability to think critically, work well with others, and bring an intrinsic motivation to a career.
Armed with that knowledge, the district began with a pilot of personalized learning in a middle school in 2014. Following that, they worked with digital learning leaders to build an infrastructure that would scale across the district. The approach included a rotation model featuring whole group, small group, and individual support with the teacher as key learning facilitator, and a 1:1 device initiative. In 2015, the effort spread to the district’s high schools, and in 2016 and 2017, they expanded to elementary grades (beginning in grade five). They used an organic approach by layering in digital learning opportunities where it made the most sense, and they continue to explore new ways of integrating technology. Teachers are supported in developing skills and resources to use with students so much so that now it is a fluid daily process of incorporating digital learning and monitoring learning metrics, such as grades and progress.
Funding for the personalized learning program stems from a penny sales tax. Digital support resources include a teacher laptop initiative, 1:1 student device initiative for all students grades 3–12, interactive white boards, a district technology fair, a competitive robotics program, a district virtual school, and extensive teacher training in using technology tools. The use of digital learning has helped the district accelerate student achievement, increase student engagement with peers, build students’ and educators’ skills with a variety of digital learning tools, and individualize the learning experience for all students and educators.
Since implementing personalized learning in 2013–14, district educators are seeing positive shifts in the culture and climate of the schools, including an increase in attendance rates and student engagement, and a decline in discipline issues. As Brandice Gore, a former Instructional Coach at Conway Middle School says, “They [students] are thinking past high school, which is what you want as an educator.”
This profile was developed through correspondence with Edi Cox of Horry County Schools and with the help of resources and information on the Horry County Schools’ website.