Bringing vision to life

As the first step toward achieving their ambitious vision, SFUSD implemented School and Family Early-Digital Literacy project, which has wrapped up its first year. The project is designed to promote learning to read and write and engagement with the Common Core in language arts and math through meaningful use of iPads.

The project put classroom sets of iPads loaded with reading and writing apps into the hands of all first graders at four of the district’s underserved elementary schools, and provides both training and an iPad to their parents to help extend literacy learning beyond the classroom. Several community partners—such as YMCAs and the Mission Economic Development Agency—help facilitate the training.

To receive the family iPads, parents or guardians took a 20 module, 10 session course with lessons ranging from turning the iPads on and setting them up, to early literacy activities they can do with their child on or off the device, and advanced lessons on specific apps and online resources. The training was offered in English, Spanish, and Cantonese.

The iPads in these classrooms have bigger libraries within them than district officials could have imagined a few years ago. The digital reading platform myON has more than 8,000 books for children. Each student gets their own account, and teachers are granted the ability to track student progress.

A new framework

SFUSD conducted careful research, as the plan was to go slow in order to go fast. The team looked at other programs around the country as well as reviewing other school-to-home technology efforts before developing their own early literacy curriculum in collaboration with an educational nonprofit, Wexford Institute.

The program intentionally started small: the first grade classes in four carefully selected communities became the starting points. One of the important goals of the district is to have students reading at grade level by third grade, but ELA leaders recommended that first graders be targeted because first grade is when students are expected to make the greatest leap in reading ability. Furthermore, the district is beginning to implement the new Common Core assessments, which start in the second grade. By focusing on reading skills for a full year in first grade, students will not be distracted by the test preparation and testing windows that become a necessary part of the second grade curriculum.

Next page: Transforming the classroom for collaboration