Rowland Unified School District Accepted into National Network of Innovative School Districts
Rowland USD joins Digital Promise League of Innovative Schools to partner with other leading educators, entrepreneurs, and researchers from across the country
October 7, 2021 | Rowland Heights, CA – Rowland Unified School District was accepted into the League of Innovative Schools, a national coalition of forward-thinking K-12 school districts organized by Digital Promise, a nonprofit organization with the mission to accelerate innovation in education and improve the opportunity for all to learn through technology and research. The Digital Promise League of Innovative Schools, launched at the White House under President Barack Obama within the United States Department of Education in 2011, accepts new members through an open application process once per year. The full list of 124 District members in 34 states can be found at digitalpromise.org/districts.
Rowland Unified School District was selected from a competitive national pool of applicants based on its educational leadership, innovative vision for learning, key achievements and evidence of results, and demonstrated commitment to equity and excellence. Examples of Rowland USD’s innovation can be seen with the integration of educational technology and bringing educational equity through digital access (VIDEO LINK), and specific programs such as Kinder Care and Connect (VIDEO LINK), Music for All and College Connect (VIDEO LINK).
“We are very honored to be recognized for our work and to join this prestigious partnership,” said Dr. Julie Mitchell, Rowland Unified School District Superintendent of Schools. “We pride ourselves on providing Innovative Learning for All and a large part of our innovation has been in completely transforming teaching and learning to meet the needs of our students. Innovation is a mindset, an attitude, and part of the fabric of Rowland Unified. Through working collaboratively, thinking outside of the box, gathering input and ideas from students, staff, and parents, we are able to create, invent and provide learning experiences that help all students to flourish and meet their full potential,” said Mitchell.
As a direct result of the vision of laying the educational technology infrastructure years in advance, Rowland Unified was able to pivot quickly and move from a traditional brick and mortar organization to an all virtual learning setting in a single weekend when the pandemic hit. Online learning brought light to the insufficient internet access for families and the District quickly purchased and provided 3,335 hot spots to students, as well as specialized technology to meet the needs of the District’s homeless population who didn’t have access to WIFI.
The foundation of school success begins in Kindergarten, and in the midst of the pandemic, there was concern for the youngest learners. The District reinvented the kinder learning experience while maintaining high standards of care, compassion, connection and content with Kinder Care and Connect. Using the vehicle of reading and bi-weekly mail deliveries, 900 kindergarten students and families from across the district were connected with lessons focused on books of the month that built home libraries. Knowing that learning remotely may be lonely, every kindergartener received their own learning partner, a stuffed elephant lovingly known as Mabel. Students interacted with authors and illustrators with online sessions and students thrived by writing their own stories that were turned into books that were also mailed home.
Continuing its focus on access, equity and excellence, Rowland Unified launched its Music for All program in 2016, which continues to grow and flourish, and continued even during remote learning. Understanding that music education supports academic success and a creative outlet for many students, every student starting in first grade, receives music education taught by a credentialed music teacher once per week throughout elementary school. Additional weekly lessons are also provided after school at no cost to the family. As students enter middle and high school, they are able to continue their music interests in individualized classes for choir, band, guitar, mariachi, orchestra or jazz band. Students have performed in the Macy’s Day Parade and London's New Year’s Day Parade and most recently, students have been invited to play in 2022 at Carnegie Hall.
The District’s College Connect program addresses access to a four year university to our students at promise, to provide every support needed through the college exploration, application, scholarship and acceptance process. This student population requires specialized and individualized assistance to bring their dreams into reality. The first year it was established, all 24 participants were offered admission into one of their top choice schools. The following year 73 students were accepted. The program continues to grow and students have been awarded prestigious scholarships such as the Gates Millennium, Horatio Alger, Coca Cola and Edison STEM scholarships.
“Now more than ever, the League of Innovative Schools recognizes the impact that equity, access, and opportunity can have on student outcomes,” said Dewayne J. McClary, director of the League of Innovative Schools. “The League strives to build a collaborative of close-knit districts that work together to eradicate the impact of inequitable practices, outdated instruction and resources, and districts working in silos. Part of our mission is to transform the systems and policies that create barriers for marginalized students.”
League members are represented by their superintendent, who commits to:
- Attend biannual League meetings, which feature classroom visits, collaborative problem-solving, and relationship-building with peers and partners;
- Participate in League cohorts and challenge collaboratives on a broad range of topics relevant to the changing needs and priorities of school districts;
- Support Digital Promise research and provide critical feedback so it translates easily into classroom experiences and expands what we know about teaching and learning;
- Engage with entrepreneurs to advance edtech product development steeped in the latest learning science and meets district needs; and
- Participate in the League’s professional learning community by connecting with other members online, in person, and at each other’s school districts.
Working at the intersection of education leaders, researchers, and developers, Digital Promise and the League of Innovative Schools provide an environment for superintendents and district leaders to share and learn from best practices; leverage research and participate in continuous improvement models; engage in research and development (R&D) projects with peers to address education’s biggest challenges; and implement new technologies and innovations in their school systems. The League will officially welcome new members at its fall hybrid meeting on October 20-22, 2021, held online and in-person in Washington, D.C. For more information on the Digital Promise League of Innovative Schools, visit: digitalpromise.org/league.