Southside students test Microsoft IT Academy

Published 12:16 pm Thursday, December 16, 2010

Contributing Writer

Students at one Beaufort County high school are among the first in the state to test new computer-education courses which will eventually be expanded to all public high schools across North Carolina.
Southside High School is one of 37 high schools participating in the Microsoft IT Academy, which is intended to give students real-world technology skills they need to be successful in college and a career.
Another 20 school districts will test the program in high schools beginning in January.
State school officials expect all of the state’s 628 public high schools to use the Microsoft IT Academy curriculum in teaching their students Computer Applications I, a course in the Career and Technical Education Standard Course of Study by the fall of 2011.
“In today’s economy, providing Microsoft IT Academy to high schools just makes sense,” said State Superintendent June Atkinson in a press release announcing the program. “The ability to effectively use Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Access are essential skills in most businesses and offices today.”
North Carolina is the first state to announce the adoption of Microsoft IT Academy in all of its high schools.
An $800,000 three-year agreement between Microsoft and the N.C. Department of Public Instruction gives high-school students and their teachers access to lessons in Microsoft programs, support tools and certifications. Teachers also will have access to professional-development materials and teaching resources.
Sixteen Southside High School students enrolled in Computer Applications I this semester are among the first to test the new instruction which provides training in MS Office, PowerPoint, Publisher and One Note, provided through the agreement with Microsoft. A second course includes instruction in Excel and Access.
Beaufort County Schools volunteered to participate in the academy, according to Christy Harris, high-school curriculum and career technical education coordinator for Beaufort County Schools.
The class at Southside High School was chosen because the class was large enough to gauge the effectiveness of the program and small enough to monitor, Harris said.
Next semester, at least one course through the Microsoft IT Academy will be offered at Northside and Washington high schools, Harris said.
Through the academy, students are able to earn certification as a Microsoft office specialist or a Microsoft certified professional by completing the academy’s coursework and passing exams.
With these certifications, students may prove they have mastered the course material and, hopefully, impress future employers, Harris said.
“This will give these students an extra edge because they can show that they know the material,” she said. 
And with just a few glitches encountered by the Southside High School students in the new course, it is proving successful, said business teacher Kathy Clark.
“This has been a learning experience,” she said. “I feel lucky to be one of the first teachers to participate in the academy, and for our students, this is an opportunity other students don’t have.”
Like Harris, Clark said one appeal of the academy is the opportunity for students to obtain certification from Microsoft proving their ability to use the programs.
“In one survey, this certification was important to most of the hiring managers,” Clark said. “It’s recognized by the business community.”
Students in Clark’s class said they appreciate the chance to be among the first in the state to participate in the academy.
“I feel lucky because it’s my senior year and I get to take this class,” said Zackery Moore in an interview by e-mail. “If I get my certification, it could give me the chance to be a step ahead of other employees and students in the work environment and school.”
Jesse Powers agreed.
“I’m learning a lot in this class,” he said. “It’s helping me with some things that I will need after I graduate.”