NEWARK, NJ - The Newark Public School District will become the first district in New Jersey to participate in a program sponsored by Verizon that will give three schools better access to technology and skills students will need to succeed in the digital world. 

Dr. William H. Horton, Hawthorne Avenue, and Hawkins Street elementary schools will participate in the  Verizon Innovative Learning Schools program. 

Teachers and sixth through eighth-grade students will each receive their own iPad and two-year 5GB data plan. The schools also receive teacher training and support to develop a curriculum that maximizes the technology in their classrooms.

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“This is a special grant that could change the trajectory of how students perform in school based on having access to information, being able to be creative, and using different learning methods they previously didn’t,” Hawkins Street Elementary Principal Alejandro Lopez said. “I’m really excited about the prospects. The possibilities are endless."

Verizon partners with Digital Promise, a nonprofit dedicated to improving learning through innovation, to provide professional development and manage the program. Digital Promises reaches out to district leaders across the country that serve under-resourced areas to inform them about the academic and culture change possible through the program.

 About 100 schools in over a dozen states in the U.S. are participating in this program.

One key requirement is that the district and school leaders have a vision to create opportunities for students to grow and achieve academically through increased access to technology. 

“We look for leaders that want to use this initiative as a catalyst for greater change in their district, or as a way to enhance the great work they're already doing,” director of Corporate Social Responsibility at Verizon Justina Nixon-Saintil said.

Schools are responsible for hiring a learning coach to support teachers with tech integration throughout the day. Classroom observations, test score data sharing, and participation in surveys are also required Saintil said. 

The program provides a partial salary for the in-house technology coach. The school must supplement the other half and the district must provide IT support. 

“Superintendent Roger León recognized that our student graduates need 21st-century workforce skills to be successful in college and a career of their choice. He understands the unique potential that tech can provide to enhance the process,” Joshua Koen, the district’s Executive Director for Educational Technology and Computer Science, said. “We believe access to the internet and a connected device can assist with student agency and personalized learning.”

The partnership with Verizon gives students 24/7 access to digital learning tools that the school provides throughout the day, Koen said. The district allocated $1.6 million for the upcoming 2019-2020 schools to move closer toward students in grades three to 12 to individual access to Chromebooks in school.

Teachers at all three schools will receive their iPads to use over the summer and align curriculum with the use of the devices. Students will receive their iPads and technology orientation this fall.