Written by Patricia Hawke for www.schoolsk-12.com

Raleigh Schools have been trying all sorts of initiatives and programs to bring the district up to No Child Left Behind requirements. Charter caps, the achievement gap and school choices are all hotly debated as Raleigh Schools look for roads toward improvement. But until now, no one had asked, “Can you hear me now?”
Well, that tagline belongs to Verizon. But it’s QUALCOMM Incorporated and the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction who have teamed up to create Project K-nect. Students in Raleigh Schools, and the rest of North Carolina, may be eligible for a mobile education pilot project this coming school year. QUALCOMM, a lead developer of wireless technologies, will provide high school students with Smartphones that will be used to deliver educational information. The Smartphones program is part of a $1 million grant provided by QUALCOMM’s Wireless Reach Initiative.
Project K-nect has three goals:
  1. To increase state assessment scores and classroom performance in math
  2. To better engage children who struggle with math
  3. To narrow the digital gap by providing supplemental learning opportunities through the use of the mobile Smartphone.
QUALCOMM will provide the Smartphones free of charge to selected ninth graders in Raleigh Schools and other North Carolina Districts. To be eligible students in Raleigh Schools must have below average math grades, qualify for free or reduced lunch, and have limited home access to the internet. Safeguards are in place to ensure that approved participants and teachers only use the phones. Student from Raleigh Schools may complete a grant application for one of the 250 openings.
Administrators of Raleigh Schools are hopeful that the added tutoring that will be available to the students through their phones will help some at-risk students achieve higher math grades and test scores. Corporate sponsors like QUALCOMM, Microsoft and the Carnegie Fund, are showing up in public school initiatives across the nation. While districts like the Raleigh Schools are strapped for funds to meet classroom ratios and provide needed remedial help to at-risk students, deep-pocketed corporations are showing more commitment to education than ever before.
The Raleigh Schools also elicit school choice through publicly funded, but privately run charter schools; as another way to help bridge the achievement gap between minority and white students. But the failure of some charters to prove their success, along with the North Carolina charter cap, means that option is limited for students in Raleigh Schools. There is also complaint that the charters of Raleigh Schools don’t achieve a reasonable racial balance. Struggles like this are why Raleigh Schools gratefully accept corporate sponsors, and have high hope for the outcomes of initiatives like Project K-nect.