Students who don’t have a computer, who don’t have internet access at home, can find themselves falling farther and farther behind. In a time when many schools take those things for granted, parents who aren’t tech-savvy, or parents who are not comfortable speaking English, can feel frustrated and lost trying to help their kids.
Redwood City School District has taken that as a challenge – and now, the district has been recognized for that work. McKinley Institute of Technology, a middle school focused on closing that digital divide for students and parents – received a 2018 Award from the San Mateo County School Boards Association, for the school’s “Family Literacy Initiative and Literacy Initiative.” The initiative was also honored with the inaugural Excellence in Education Award from the San Mateo County Office of Education.
McKinley is a little “old school” (Literally. McKinley is in a classic school building that dates back to 1927.) and a lot of new school:
Every McKinley student has a laptop, to use in school for classwork – and which they can take home, for homework. (For students without Wi-Fi at home, the school sets up a “hotspot” so they can get internet access.) But before any student starts using their new computer – they go through a ten-day “digital boot camp”, that teaches them how to think critically about what they see online, and how to behave online.
The middle schoolers at McKinley aren’t just using their computers to learn about computers either (though they do have a chance to dig into coding) – they’re using their electronics for online reading and writing activities, and to access personalized reading resources.
Maybe just as important, McKinley also works with the parents of all their students. Every parent gets set up with email – they learn how to support their kids in digital homework assignments – and they can track their kids’ progress and assignments online.
In cooperation with Canada College, the school also offers free English language classes to parents – on site at McKinley. And Principal Nick Fanourgiakis meets monthly with parents.
All of that, to help parents feel more connected to the school; and to help them, help their children to become better readers and better students.
The result? In just two years, from 2015 to 2017, the percentage of students performing below grade level was cut in half. Parent engagement is up across the board, with 100 percent participation in beginning-of-the-year orientations. And a 2018 Kent Award.
Maybe it’s no accident that McKinley Institute of Technology is – MIT.
Photo courtesy of the Redwood City School District