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Partner Story: Franklin-McKinley School District

Supporting English Language Learners with Differentiated Instruction


students using 1:1 iPads in grades K–6


ELA standards mastered in seven months


STAR percentile point growth for ELL and GenEd students

Using iPads and eSpark to support students in their greatest areas of need, this California district improved academic outcomes and student engagement.

Supporting ELL and GenEd students

A Title 1 school in San Jose, California, G.W. Hellyer Elementary operates with the mission to “make sure that all who enter elementary grades leave the 8th grade with the skills and knowledge needed to enter...high school without remediation.” In 2015, administrators at the Franklin McKinley School District were looking to use Hellyer's iPads to differentiate learning and help high need students catch up to their peers.

Hellyer was especially invested in supporting the school’s sizeable ELL population. Over 23% of California students speak a language other than English at home. Historically, these students have been underserved by public education. In 2012, 40% of California students with limited English proficiency failed to graduate from high school. While inclusive classrooms are instrumental in destigmatizing ELL students, even the most experienced teachers can struggle with the additional layers of differentiation that multilingual classrooms require.

"eSpark has allowed us to instruct and support each student at his or her level. It’s rare to find a solution that leads to high levels of growth for both GenEd and ELL students. eSpark does that."

– Stella Kemp, Former Superintendent of Franklin-McKinley School District

With these concerns in mind, Hellyer administrators looked for a solution that would empower teachers to meet each student at his or her level. When planning for their instructional shift, administrators felt it was imperative that classroom technology enhance learning without exacerbating the existing achievement gap. After evaluating a variety of classroom tools, Hellyer partnered with eSpark in 2015.

Differentiating instruction with STAR data and digital content

In September, Hellyer had students take STAR, a nationally normed adaptive assessment, to establish a benchmark against which student growth could be measured. eSpark used data from this assessment to diagnose student skill levels, assigning students app- and video-based lessons aligned to their greatest areas of need.

During the first semester of implementation, 450 students in grades K-6 began using eSpark and 1:1 iPads to practice ELA standards 2 to 3 times each week. As students worked independently on eSpark’s engaging third-party app and video content, teachers provided targeted instruction to small groups and individual students.

Through eSpark, ELL students were provided with full audio support, ensuring that students could continue to learn new concepts while they developed their reading comprehension skills. Upon mastering a new standard, students recorded synthesis videos in which they re-taught and applied new standards and concepts. These quests allowed students to practice their speaking and listening skills and provided teachers with a record of student engagement and growth that could be easily sent home to parents. With eSpark, ELL students were able to work alongside their GenEd peers while receiving the targeted instruction they needed to grow and succeed.

Strengthening student engagement and academic outcomes

Students and teachers alike responded to eSpark with enthusiasm. Judy Kwan, a second grade teacher at Hellyer says, “The videos, music, and games are really fun, cute, and interesting… This program is so engaging that kids don’t realize that they’re actually learning.” Ms. Kwan’s words ring true in analysis of student feedback, and Hellyer students indicated that they enjoyed working on 90% of the activities they were assigned through eSpark.

"The videos, music, and games are really fun, cute, and interesting… This program is so engaging that kids don’t realize that they’re actually learning."

– Judy Kwan, Second Grade Teacher at Hellyer

STAR Percentile Growth for GenEd

Between fall and winter assessments, Hellyer K-6th grade students using eSpark grew 9 national percentile points on the STAR assessment. Typically, percentile growth is zero for a given student.

STAR Percentile Growth for English Language Learners

K-6 ELL students achieved the same amount of growth as their general education peers, also growing 9 percentile points between assessments.

After seven months of using the program, students mastered 3,763 ELA standards, about 7 standards per student. March STAR scores showed that, on average, K-6 students grew 9 percentile points since launching eSpark in October. Since STAR is a nationally normed assessment in which a student experiencing typical learning growth doesn’t experience percentile change over the course of a school year, Hellyer’s March STAR scores signify substantial improvement to the school’s already strong instructional practices.

English Language Learners and GenEd Students Rate Activites

In just five months, Hellyer students completed 3,763 ELA standards, about 9 standards per student. They overwhelmingly indicated positive program engagement, giving a “thumbs up” to 90% of educational activities when prompted by eSpark’s built-in feedback mechanism.

Furthermore, analysis of October and March STAR scores shows that differentiated learning with eSpark helped Hellyer’s 147 ELL students experience the same growth as their classmates. Between fall and winter, the average STAR score of ELL students jumped from the 28th to the 37th percentile. Former district Superintendent Stella Kemp says, "eSpark has allowed us to instruct each student at his or her level. It's rare to find a solution that leads to high levels of growth for both ELL and GenEd students. eSpark does that." With both ELL and general education students gaining an average of 9 percentile points in just five months, educators at G.W. Hellyer Elementary can confidently say that they are fully meeting the needs of all of their learners.

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Franklin-McKinley School District, San Jose, CA


10,620 K-6 students, Title I


1:1 iPads in K-6

Products Used


Differentiated instruction on iPads for grades PK to 5

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