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Accelerating Student Growth with iPad Learning

Valley Stream 30 students who used eSpark grew 10 national percentile points from Fall 2013 to Spring 2014.

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Valley Stream 30's Success Story

When Valley Stream 30 embarked on a new iPad initiative, they quickly saw a huge impact on student learning and teacher engagement compelling leaders to expand the program by 5.5x in just over one year.

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Fast Facts


Suburban village of Valley Stream in SW Nassau County, Long Island, NY


1,500 students in K-6, 35% qualify for free or reduced price meals


Shared iPad carts in grades 1, 2, 3, 5 & 6 using eSpark with a split class model; 1:1 iPads and eSpark for 50 SPED students


Secured through Nassau County Board of Cooperative Educational Services (BOCES), NYSED Performance Grant


Named an Effective Practice School District for its exemplary literacy program


Developing a vision for iPad learning

In early 2013, school districts across Long Island, NY were buzzing about iPad learning. The leadership at Valley Stream Union Free School District 30 had heard about the success neighboring districts were having with classroom tablets. Superintendent of Schools, Dr. Nicholas Stirling wanted “a resource that would support 21st century learning and accelerate the integration of technology into the curriculum.” He and his leadership team sought to learn from the successful iPad initiatives in nearby districts to implement an innovative plan of their own.

Before placing iPads in students’ hands, the administration at Valley Stream 30 wanted to ensure that the devices could support teachers in differentiating instruction. They needed a way to use iPads to deliver personalized content and allow students to engage with a curriculum at their unique learning level. Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction, Dr. Roxanne France, explained they had “a strong need to provide differentiated instruction that addressed students’ intervention as well as enrichment needs.” After considerable research, administrators noticed that many of the successful iPad programs in surrounding districts possessed a common factor: a partnership with eSpark Learning.


Personalizing the student learning experience

In the Spring of 2013, Valley Stream 30 invested in iPad carts to share devices among 200 second graders and followed suit by partnering with eSpark. When the rotating carts reached a classroom, each second grader received an iPad with unique login information to access differentiated apps, instructional videos, and synthesis challenges provided and assigned by eSpark. NWEA MAP data from Fall 2012 was used to diagnose students’ areas of weakness across Common Core math standards and assign a personalized iPad curriculum to target those goal areas. If the initial implementation succeeded, administrators planned to expand the program to an additional grade level in the Fall of 2013.

Students in Valley Stream quickly immersed themselves in the iPads and personalized math content. Teachers also loved the program, commenting that it’s a “great way to motivate kids and teach to their individual needs.” The teachers felt prepared to succeed with the new technology after receiving an initial professional development session covering iPad basics and how to transition to a blended learning classroom environment. Teachers also benefitted from ongoing support from eSpark throughout the spring semester.

When administrators received the Spring 2013 NWEA MAP results from second grade students, they were impressed with the significant growth students had achieved in a short time. Growth in students’ goal areas—the math domains targeted by their eSpark curriculum—was more than double the growth in all other math domains. The remarkable success of Valley Stream’s inceptive personalized iPad program influenced the district’s decision to expand to two additional grade levels. Valley Stream 30 took their existing iPads, plus the additional shared carts they planned to purchase, and altered the model to split devices between three grade levels. By allocating 10 iPads to each classroom, all first, second, and third graders had access to a their own class set and 50 Special Education students had 1:1 access for the 2013-2014 school year.

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Expanding access to increase impact

The newly expanded model placed differentiated iPad content at the fingertips of 700 students across three different Valley Stream 30 elementary schools. Teachers used a split classroom model three times a week, during which half the class received direct teacher instruction while the other half logged into eSpark to work independently on their personalized learning plans. Students began eSparking in Fall 2013 with only math content, but teachers requested their administration purchase eSpark’s reading curriculum for the spring semester.

Lisa Freisem, a special education teacher, expressed her observations of eSpark in the classroom, stating: “My students enjoy it and I have seen progress in their pre- and post-tests.” Noticing the incredible student and teacher engagement fostered by eSpark, principals and district leaders agreed to expand the program even further and deliver eSpark’s reading curriculum to four pilot groups in mid-March of 2014. Dr. France commented that student engagement and motivation “significantly increased due to the power of the [eSpark] learning videos, which encourage as well empower students to creatively demonstrate their learning upon completing their specific learning path.”


Exceeding growth expectations

The NWEA MAP data from Spring 2014 impressed the Valley Stream 30 administration yet again. As a group, Valley Stream 30 eSpark students grew much faster than their peers nationwide. From Fall 2013 to Spring 2014, students using eSpark grew an average of 10 national percentile points. The general education students who used eSpark grew an average of 11 national percentile points. The 50 SPED students who used eSpark grew eight percentile points—an 80 percent increase from fall to spring. Growth in subject areas targeted by eSpark exceeded NWEA expectations by 42 percent. Because of excellent teaching and student support, learners also exceeded expectations by 20 percent in non-goal domains (areas not targeted by eSpark).

Initially, the leadership at Valley Stream 30 planned to extend iPad access and the eSpark partnership to one additional grade level, but the achievement results and the need for continuity between grade levels encouraged administrators to expand to two additional grades— fifth and sixth—beginning in Fall 2014. They will fund the expansion using a NYSED Performance Grant, a competitive state grant awarded to districts with high growth in student achievement.

In just over one year, Valley Stream 30’s innovative technology initiative has joined its neighboring districts as a leading example of success with iPads in the classroom. With all first through third, fifth and sixth, and 50 SPED students participating this fall, a total of 1,100 students will experience personalized instruction on the iPad using eSpark. Dr. France hopes the continued expansion will “provide students with additional support to address academic gaps experienced from New York State shifting from state standards to Common Core State Standards.”

"My students enjoy it and I have seen progress in their pre- and post-tests."

Special Ed Teacher at Valley Stream 30

"[eSpark] is a great way to motivate kids and teach to their individual needs."

Elementary Teacher at Valley Stream 30

Valley Stream 30's Academic Results

To measure the effect of eSpark on student learning, we analyzed Valley Stream 30's third-party assessment data from Fall 2013—prior to implementing eSpark—and June—after a year of personalized learning. Valley Stream 30 saw a significant positive impact on student achievement and engagement.

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