Alleghany County sits in northwestern North Carolina, within the scenic Blue Ridge Mountains. Once called a “lost province” of North Carolina due to its isolation behind a mountain range, the county remains sparsely populated, with a population of around 11,000 people.
Alleghany County Schools has three pre-K-8 schools and one high school, with a total student population of around 1,400 and 115 teachers. That small student and teacher population creates a strong sense of community. But the county’s rural nature also presents some challenges. Its large agricultural sector – the second largest employer – utilizes seasonal workers. Often, those workers’ children arrive in a county school late in the school year and may depart early in the year as their parents seek new opportunities. That, and the need for district educators to wear many hats, means students need additional support to have a seamless transition into the classroom.
Despite the county’s rural location, the county is surprisingly wired, with 97 percent of households able to access the Internet. As a result, the district had been able to deploy online programs for reading and math. But it wasn’t happy with the math instruction – it often left students feeling frustrated. In fact, even as literacy and language skills were improving in the district, math skills were deteriorating. “Two years ago, our math skills were significantly below the state average,” says Leigh Ann Dixon, the district’s Instructional Coach for grades K-5. “It was kind of shocking.”
As a result, in March 2019 the district deployed DreamBox as part of a Paid Pilot Program with the goal of improving students’ math performance. This led to a district-wide purchase and implementation of DreamBox for all Alleghany students, pre-K-8. District leaders were drawn to several aspects of DreamBox. Foremost was its adaptability – DreamBox enables individual, in-the-moment learning experiences that are deeply personalized for each student to provide the right next lesson, at the right level of difficulty, at the right time. That in turn made DreamBox a bargain compared with other supplemental math programs they evaluated. Says Stacy Miller, also a former Instructional Coach and now Assistant Principal at Sparta Elementary School: “We’re a small district so we have to be very conscious of how we spend our money. With DreamBox’s adaptive component, we felt like we were getting more for our money.”