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Lindsay Unified School District’s Transformative Journey

In Lindsay Unified School District (LUSD) – a small, rural district located in the Central Valley of California – approximately 93% of the students identify as Hispanic/Latino and 42% as ELLs; 24% receive migrant services; and all students receive free meals. The district has committed to ensuring every learner has the best learning experience daily. Since 2007, this dedication has manifested in system-wide investments in time, resources, and technology to support high-quality, personalized learning in face-to-face and virtual learning environments. 

LUSD refers to its students as learners, codifying their active role in their education. The district refers to teachers as learning facilitators who guide learners toward targeted, relevant resources, providing direct support to unique learning needs and designing personalized learning pathways through which learners produce evidence of their learning to demonstrate mastery of relevant standards and skills. The district’s approach is inspired by the core belief that preparing learners for their future requires dramatically rethinking educational practices. In 2018, a collaborative project with Transcend Education, Summit Public Schools, and the Center for Public Research and Leadership at Columbia University developed a series of learner actions. experiences, and corresponding educator actions and strategies that exemplify high-quality personalized instruction.

LUSD maximizes its use of technology to support this vision and ensure learning is always available everywhere. In 2015, LUSD leaders recognized providing and encouraging extended learning opportunities would require internet and device access outside of school. Given their rural location, they realized this would require a community solution. As a result, they launched a multi-year project to install nine distribution towers across the district to expand the district’s network. They then placed hundreds of hotspots in people’s homes to provide free, filtered coverage for all learners. In addition, the district installed cell towers to connect LTE-enabled devices. They collaborated with and engaged critical stakeholders throughout the process, gathering input from students, educators, school leaders, parents, neighbors, business owners, and the local government. 

From this experience, LUSD leaders prioritized clarity, transparency, and communication. They developed “SMART” (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic/reasonable, and timely) objectives, shared them publicly, and referred to them regularly to establish a clear and common understanding. The District Director of Technology and 21st Century Learning consistently communicated with stakeholders and iteratively revised messaging to ensure they understood the project’s purpose and what would be necessary to ensure success. In addition, the director collaborated with the Chief Business Officer to ensure financial sustainability. The district recognized funding would shift over time and wanted to ensure infrastructure could be installed and maintained. Most importantly, LUSD leadership ensured that every technology decision aligned with the district’s vision for learningall learners can learn, acquire knowledge in different ways and timeframes, and have access to future-focused learning. 

By the time the COVID-19 pandemic hit in the Spring of 2020, LUSD knew that all their learners had a device, and almost 100% had sufficient internet access. Equally important, given the district’s embrace of blended learning to personalize instruction, learners had the skills to navigate digital content independently, and educators had the resources and the experience to support them virtually. The district had recognized that providing internet and device access was only the foundation for bridging the digital access divide and had taken steps to address the challenge. As a result, it was well-positioned for the pandemic transition to online learning.