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There was widespread publicity when First Daughter Ivanka Trump and Apple CEO Tim Cook visited the Wilder Elementary School in Idaho. Some of the local media were less than enthusiastic, mentioning high school student protests and low test scores. Some even pointed out that the district bought the iPads with funding from a program created during the Obama administration.
A teacher wrote to the blog to explain the back story. I won’t use her name, but you can find it on her comment that appears on the blog.
Just like every story on the internet, there is a different side to this. The iPads aren’t the enemy here. The real issue is a small district with no checks or balances allowing one person to be in power. If you want an inside look at what this district is going through, please continue reading otherwise please understand the iPads started out and were intended to offer amazing opportunities for the students. I’m not here to sell iPads but what they did for this community was very positive until one man with all the power decided to jump on a band wagon without doing his due diligence and researching the affects.
These iPads were granted to the district through the ConnectEd grant. The way the grant was written the iPads were going to help the students connect with the local community doing real life projects and helping in the community. They came with a complete overhaul of the infastructure, and the ability for students to be connected to the internet at home, while traveling for sports or their long FFA trips. Teachers were trained through a certified teacher trained on Apple product to teach the teachers how to take their lessons and add a new level of thought and creativity using technology.
Then the superintendent who has complete power in the district wanted to run for state superintendent and the Idaho State Department of Education began a personalized learning initiative. He thought if he could be the best in the state and get this started first and be ahead of the game then that would be really all he would need to get the win and become state superintendent. He expected the teachers to completely drop what they were doing and begin teaching this way over night. Teachers were being asked to completely compromise their curriculum and drop standards to make it easier for students to just focus on the “big rocks”. Students were getting Spanish credits in the high school for using DuoLingos app. At the end the students still couldn’t speak or write simple Spanish. If teachers questioned the methods they would receive poor evaluations, have to change classrooms for no reason or be asked to complete tasks that weren’t necessary or that no other teacher was asked to do.
Student and parent frustrations are through the roof. Parents and teachers were being denied the ability to talk to the board. In the high school wing all but two teachers left last year along with the IT guy, the secretary, the migrant/homeless liasion, the ELL teacher, and some sped staff all left. This is a very small district that graduates between 25-30 kids each year. That is a lot of staff turnover. The stress in the building is unhealthy because one man has all the control and he can’t/won’t change now or all that he has been hyping up will look like he is lying. A huge majority of the staff couldn’t stand seeing students having to use the iPads this way. But suggestions, ideas or possible improvements are deemed as insubordination.
I believe it is the superintendent’s connections through the Apple grant that brought Trump and Cook out there. Cook needs Trump to be onboard to continue the “ConnectEd” type initiatives and to stop the tariffs on the company and the local superintendent needs the media to confirm how good he is to the Idaho public as a “I told you we were good but you (public) didn’t listen” . He lost the election by a very large margin.
Not only was I a teacher that left, I was one of the tree people that wrote the middle-high school Apple grant. This isn’t how any of us intended for the iPads to be used, ever. I can’t begin to tell you how proud I am of the students that spoke up. I miss them terribly and felt like I am weak because I’m not mentally strong enough to stay and fight for them and protect their education. Suggestions on ways to fight are greatly appreciated!! These are absolutely amazing students they deserve much better.