Community Outreach Program of Roanoke

"The Microsoft software has been a big help. I love Microsoft Access because we can organize files, chart our students' progress, and monitor their attendance."

— Rebecca Parsons, outreach coordinator

Mobile Computing Gives Students a Boost in State Tests

In 2012 Virginia lawmakers required for the first time that all elementary schools give standardized tests on computers. Elementary students across the state put down their pencils and test booklets and turned on a computer to take their standardized state tests. Many educational reformers applauded the switch, but not everyone was so excited. Pass rates fell by more than 50 percent in some of the state's poorest schools. It was shown that students who did not have regular access to computers scored well below the state average. In Roanoke, only 10 percent of households had a computer, and students' scores plummeted. 

With frustrations mounting, one NGO, Community Outreach Program of Roanoke, saw an opportunity to act. COP is a small faith-based NGO that was founded 25 years ago by a concerned group of women. After noticing the lack of constructive activities for local youth, they decided to start a youth community engagement program. They began providing free meals and evenings of wholesome entertainment at local churches. Today COP provides educational and social activities for over 80 children, four nights a week.

When COP witnessed the decrease in state scores, they secured grant funding to buy computers. With a brand new eight-station mobile computing lab at their disposal, COP went to work. There was just one problem: The computers did not come equipped with any software. Working on a limited budget they turned to TechSoup, where they were able to obtain Microsoft Office donations for all of their computers. Now students in Roanoke are able to learn basic computer skills like working with Word documents and creating basic PowerPoint presentations. COP holds typing competitions in Word with prizes to keep students engaged. With a newly gained skills and confidence on the computer COP's students have improved their scores and are looking ahead to much brighter futures.