Evanston/Skokie School District 65 will expand a pilot program and provide iPads to all sixth graders starting this fall.

The Digital Promise project was launched in 2014 at eight U.S. middle schools, including Chute Middle School and King Arts, as part of a pilot program to “create innovative learning environments and close the digital learning gap,” according to District 65’s Digital Promise website.

The project was initially funded by Digital Promise and Verizon Wireless for two years.

After the conclusion of Digital Promise, students at Chute Middle School and King Labs participated in a pilot program this year to assess different devices (iPad and Chromebook) and get feedback from both students and teachers about the effectiveness of various tools.

A “Future Ready” video summarizes the kids’ experience in the pilot program.

The program has been renamed Access to Innovate, said Stacey Beardsley, assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction, in a report to the school board Monday night.

Beardsley says all sixth graders at Chute, Haven and Nichols Middle Schools as well as the King Labs and Bessie Rhodes magnet schools will get the iPads.

The iPads will be loaded with a fixed image that will provide all students with equal access to learning, according to a written report to the board. Students will be able to use the devices at school and at home.

The district estimates that 5-7 percent of students may not have access to wifi at home. Those students will be given a hotspot loaner for use at home.

Preparation for the launch of the program includes professional learning for teachers, said Bearsley. A total of four Innovation Coaches will help teachers use the technology in the classroom.

Funding for Access to Innovate has been provided by the referendum for District 65 that voters approved in 2017, Beardsley said.

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  1. Parent input?

    I don’t see anything in the report about whether parents at the schools or across the district were surveyed about whether they want D65 to give their 11-year-olds iPads to treat as their own and to use at home. Seems like there are some significant value judgements going on here.



  2. What a waste of Evanston

    What a waste of Evanston taxpayer money.  Most school buildings look neglected and out of date…but we are going to use the new found money of the tax referendum to send everyone home with an iPad!?

    Here are a few things for the communist board members that thought this was a great idea:

    1.  What if many of these kids already have access to multiple devices at home?  Who’s to say/ or who’s asking parents if they need another iPad?

    2.  Why should we assume that all parents are even ok with their kids having an iPad at their disposal?  This sounds like a family value question and not a school board issue.  What’s next- all kids get a free tv because there are a few great educational programs available on Netflix?

    3.  It’s a HUGE joke to assume that giving 6th graders an iPad will will help close the “innovation gap.” I’ve had an iPad for 8 yrs.  I have never innovated with tech.  You only learn to innovate with tech, when you’re taught to innovate- by someone that his a leader in the field, and not by a teacher that has had a 2 hr training class and can barely use an iPad (let alone “innovate” themselves).  Have you seen the teachers in d65?  How many of us have “learned to innovate” in the world of automobiles?  We all have a car…so why not?  How many of us have learned to innovate in the area of television production?  Why not?  We all have televisions!    Of course this program is funded by Verizon!  It’s to get everyone hooked on their service and using their products – it’s not to help the kids.   Why don’t you see the Gates foundation supporting programs like this?   It’s because many executives in Silicon Valley don’t even let their highschool children have their own devices.

    1. I’m with you 100%.          

      I’m with you 100%.

      Yes, some voters voted to pass a referendum. 1:1 initiative do NOT have to mean that kids are given devices to take home.                                                 

      We’re are tech-savvy, well-educated parents. It’s a controversial topic, but we have made the decision to not consider allowing our children to have personal devices that are “theirs” and that they tote around until they are 14 years old.

      If D65 wants to make devices available for some kids to take home if they don’t have a computer in the home, fine. All programs that students are required to use at home should be those that are accessible on any PC/notebook/Mac or other device (e.g., Google Docs). Save App-specific stuff for class and school, and don’t tell parents that it’s now their responsibility to monitor their child’s use of a personal school-issued iPad.

      We’re in the minority, I’m sure, but we’ll be opting out and hope that the District has thought about accommodations for families who will decline the device and whose family parameters do not permit their 6th grader to bring family-owned technologies back and forth to school.

    2. I agree, but Gates Foundation IS a sponsor
      I agree with the entire critique. However, the Gates Foundation is a sponsor of the national Digital Promise program, along with the foundations of Mark Zuckerberg and Michael Dell.

      It is clear that their interest is not to train “innovators.” Rather to create reliance on their products and train the new generation to be compliant and non-critical thinkers about the role of technology in society.

  3. More gadgets for my kids? Great, just what we need.
    How much is this going to cost D65 (I mean taxpayers)?

    The IPads will help close the “digital learning gap?” What is the digital learning gap at D65? This is a bunch of mumbo jumbo bureaucratic BS.

    D65 threatened teacher layoffs, larger classes and the closing of science, athletic and music programs if Evanstonians didn’t pass the $100 million property tax referendum increase. $100 million for one school district!!

    And now D65 admins decide to spend an undisclosed amount of money at the behest of a Verizon sales gimmick to buy thousands of IPads.

    It’s hard enough to monitor and limit the time my kids are on all of these electronic gadgets. Now D65 is going to ENCOURAGE more of it?

    Will some sensible and fiscal conservative candidates please run for school board and vote out these spend and tax happy bureaucrats. Paleeze.

  4. Gee, I Wish I Could Afford an iPad
    So our desperately cash-strapped school district, which tearfully begged for vital funds so it wouldn’t have to cancel music classes for the children, is now spending its tax windfall on overpriced gadgets, to make sure we “bridge the innovation gap.” I’m sure kids will love playing video games disguised as learning on their new free ipads, while test scores continue their downward spiral. I also love how the story conspicuously omits what the investment is.

  5. Great.
    More reasons for my kids to not focus on homework and keep playing on the iPad and watch YouTube videos.

    Goren and his cronies really like to squander my hard earned money on iPad and equity consulting fees that lead to nowhere… only to fill the consultant’s purses. Sure, it makes them look like they’re doing something.

    1. Yes. Many school districts

      Yes. Many school districts that I work with (in this area and nationally) who have chosen iPads have regretted it for that reason (the typing and other productivity limitations). Many others go with Chromebooks in the classroom because it’s the more useful device for multiple school purposes.

      Regardess of device type, it’s a value judgement, and (at minimum) D65 should have solicited and considered varied parent perspectives on the question of assigning students “their own” device for home use.

  6. Cost
    Just quickly calculating the approximate cost gets me to about a quarter million dollars. There are about 820 sixth graders times $300 a pop for an iPad = $246,000. (Although it’s possible they’re getting a discount.) I agree that those funds could have been better spent and I did not anticipate our tax increase to go to things like that. That could pay for 3-4 teacher salaries instead.

    1. What if the District said it

      What if the District said it like this, “Hey, Taxpayers and Parents: We’re going to give each 6th grader his/her own camera, mp3 player, television, gaming system, and laptop computer. Because equity and innovation.” An iPad is effectively all of those things in one device. It’s not evil, but is it a wise and judicious use of “Operating Funds”? No. Chromebooks that stay at school would have been the better, and more respectful, choice.

      1. Another case of ‘Ready, Fire, Aim’ at taxpayer expense
        Another idea they came up with since they don’t know what to do.
        As government does so often, when you don’t know what to do, throw [taxpayer] money at ‘something.’
        We need a Board that knows what they are doing, not solve problems that aren’t there or are not what they think they are.
        Apparently they think the teachers are not capable of teaching, so find another source—but still keep the teachers, administration and the Board anyway.

  7. Parental restrictions?

    i do not want my 6th grader to have an iPad unless the district adds strict restrictions on all the devices. I have volunteered at my sons 5th grade library and I saw kids on totally inappropriate pages. I asked the librarian about controls and he said they have none. They trust the kids to make good choices? Really- my 7th grader was caught on a porn site at his schools computer lab. He told us all his friends go on these pages. So what are the restrictions that will prevent my son from visiting porn sites or getting into other things with something the school now issues to him?

    1. Based on your family’s

      Based on your family’s experience, it sounds like the District may have difficulty controlling the devices that it already has and that stay on the premises. 

  8. Read the fine print.

    You may agree with this or disagree however D65 when selling the referendum didn’t lie.

    “On the other hand, a successful referendum, Goren predicted, would ensure small average class sizes, strengthening of the core curriculum across subjects, promote efforts to provide equitable outcomes for all students, provide intensive supports for striving students, enhance the social emotional learning and school climate, expand family supports and community partnerships, and provide essential technology for students and staff.”

    pulled from

    Nobody cared to request a detailed explanation of what “essential technology” is.

    Let’s just hold them to all the other promises stated above. I want my children to have small class sizes and the arts.

    1. “Essential technology” could

      “Essential technology” could mean many things and doesn’t imply that the District will be giving students devices to take home. Not all families voted yes on the referendum. Even for those who did, a yes vote is not a license for the district to spend within those categories in irresponsible ways, or to do whatever they want sans taxpayer or parent input. 


      1. Serious question: has D65
        Serious question: has D65 provided data on the pilot program’s ability to positively affect learning? A breakdown by household income would be interesting as well.

        Data-driven decisions are vital in this context — are we allocating resources to the right things?

        1. No, as far as I can tell,

          No, as far as I can tell, they have not.  This excerpt from the report is telling:

          “Since the last Board update, several focus groups have been held to get faculty and student input on our existing Digital Promise program as well as to inform device selection. One of the questions that the focus groups at Chute, King Arts, and our device pilot teachers discussed what they saw as being most powerful or important about providing learning tools to our students in and out of school. Two strengths rose to the top of these conversations by measure of frequency and perceived importance: student access and opportunities for innovation.

          Teachers consistently raised the importance of all students having access to a common learning device (same device for each student) that could provide equal access to learning. The iPads will be loaded with a fixed image that will provide students with a set of learning tools to support their ability increase engagement while tackling tasks that enhance and extend learning. A second component of access is the ability for students to be able to access the full functionality of the tool off school campus which means students need access to wifi.”

          Where is/was the parent input? There were teacher and student focus groups about giving (loaning) devices to families, but nobody cared to ask the parents if they wanted a device in their home to manage? The teachers think giving each student/family a common device to use is “important”, but it doesn’t matter if parents think so? 

          The MOST equitable, respectful, and cost-effective thing would be to identify and use tools/apps that are accessible on multiple kinds devices (e.g., Google Docs). For families who do not have a device at home, they can choose to let their children take a District-provided device home if they need it for homework or a project–whether that device is a laptop or a tablet. Likewise, it would work for students to be able to sign out a device (with parent permission) to finish a particular task.

          Most of us are well-acquanited with the range of devices that people use in their everyday and professional lives, including the (very limited) iPad. If I could give (loan) every family in Evanston just one device, it would be a laptop computer or Chromebook. An iPad would be way down the list, if on the list at all.

          D65, please don’t imply that teachers  “need” iPads for students to take home beause of x number of cool apps that will magically provide equitable access, promote innovation,and bridge the achievement gap. Those are huge leaps unsubstantiated by esearch, and an insult to teachers, students, and parents alike.

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