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Representatives from Apple were in town this week to recognize Flagstaff Unified School District.

The tech company presented FUSD with the Distinguished Program Award for the district’s iRead Project at the FUSD Governing Board’s meeting Tuesday.

“We were pleased to have representatives from Apple attend our board meeting last night to highlight the innovative ways in which our elementary sites are using technology to engage students and increase our success in the teaching of reading,” said FUSD Superintendent Barbara Hickman. “We are honored to bring this sort of positive national attention to FUSD and the Flagstaff area.”

FUSD’s iREAD Project helps develop reading skills by putting iPads into the hands of all students in grades K through 3. All the elementary schools in the district have had one mobile cart of 30 iPads for each grade level since the beginning of this school year. Teachers have been incorporating the devices into their classrooms, allowing them to provide individualized learning through literacy skill-building apps. Students have also been using the iPads to create multimedia products that demonstrate those skills once they learn them.

The iREAD Project was developed in response to discouraging districtwide reading achievement data and Arizona’s new Move on When Reading statute, which requires all third-graders to read proficiently before they can be promoted to fourth grade. 

The district saw encouraging results in about a dozen pilot programs, including a first grade reading intervention program at Thomas Elementary. According to the district’s Aimsweb assessment tool, students in that class were able to read 10 additional words correctly and more students were promoted out of the targeted reading intervention program once they went through the iPad pilot program.

The Apple Distinguished Program designation is reserved for programs that meet Apple’s criteria for innovation, leadership and educational excellence, and demonstrate a clear vision of exemplary learning environments.

FUSD was one of 240 school district programs in the country to receive that recognition.

Hickman said the honor is a sign that Flagstaff is getting it right.

“The funds for the iPads come, in part, from bond monies supported by our community, and so we are especially happy to be able to show such great results to the public,” Hickman said.

Michelle McManimon can be reached at 556-2261 or MMcManimon@azdailysun.com.

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