Every day for roughly 30 minutes, Litia Lelea sits in front of her home computer to practice English and math. Computers just like it were given to her and 21 other students at Malcolm X Academy in the Bayview in an effort to close the digital divide.
The expectation is that Litia must complete at least 100 minutes of work each week in the district’s Educational Program for Gifted Youth, an online learning regimen. Her progress is tracked by her school and her parents.
“This is an isolated community,” Hoover Liddell, special assistant to the superintendent. “There is a digital divide. This way families can engage and work together and track a student’s progress.”
Litia lives in public housing. Her computer, and those of the other participants in the program, was refurbished by the San Francisco Unified School District and donated by a large corporation.
The computers were given to students in public housing to give them a tool to do projects and research at home rather than force them to go to a library, which could mean walking home late at night.
Malcolm X, the first school to participate in this program, was selected because it has the highest percentage of students in low income housing, Liddell said. The school hopes to offer computers to the remaining 37 students who live in public housing after Spring Break.
Installation of free Wi-Fi in more than 6,500 public housing units citywide was completed in December. It cost more than $95 million to overhaul the infrastructure and upgrade services.
District officials hope by giving students technology they can use at home, they can improve test scores and school participation.
Litia, a fifth-grader, is already completing math a grade level ahead, according to her online progress page.
She said it helps her learn and grow in math, but whether it reflects on test scores is still to be determined. Standardized testing for students in the district begins this month.
Liddell said he is curious to know if the computers and access to the math and English program at home will improve overall testing for those who practice. He plans to compare scores of students with the computers to see if there are any improvements.
The computers become the property of the families, according to Principal Imani Cooley.
The students will not be penalized for not completing their work. They will, however, be rewarded if they complete the 100 minutes of computer time at home or more per week.
Litia said she’s looking forward to possibly getting a “special treat” from Cooley if she does 200 minutes over spring break.
Her father, Junior Lelea, said he’s already seen a noticeable difference in her daughter’s work. She even looks forward to doing it, he said.
“It helps in more ways than one,” Junior Lelea said. “And it gets her away from the TV.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.