Superior schools evaluating students' cell phone policies

Phones negatively affecting learning


November 17, 2022

Cell phone usage in the middle school and senior high dominated nearly an hour of discussion Monday night at the November Superior Board of Education meeting. Supt. Kobza read selected portions from a journal he had received earlier in the day. In general, research from many countries indicate cell phones in the classroom have a negative impact on student learning.

Bob Cook, secondary principal, passed around a Yondr bag. If the Yondr bag program should be adopted, each student would have a bag and be expected to put their smart devices into it at the opening of school. The bag would have their name on it and stay with them throughout the school day. Unlocking stations would let students open their bag at the end of the school day.

The program includes administrative training, student policy templates, implementation planning, staff presentation, parent letter templates, unlocking bases, pouches and implementation support. If implemented, administrators projected it would cost the school approximately $6,000 the first year and half that amount the second year.

Yondr surveyed more than 900 school partners regarding their experience with the program. They reported a 65 percent improvement in academic performance, a 74 percent improvement in student behavior and saw an 83 percent improvement in student engagement in the classroom.

Two members of the school board safety committee strongly encouraged the board to adopt the Yondr program second semester. Others on the board wanted to implement a no cell phones at school policy, suggesting the policy would save the district money if it worked.

Supt. Kobza said, “Students are addicted to their cell phones. Breaking the habit takes three weeks. We can expect withdrawal symptoms.”

In response to board members wanting to teach students to use their phone responsibly in the classroom, Meyer said, “Generally speaking, when attempting to break an addiction it is not helpful to provide the addicting substance to teach responsibility.”

Cook said, “Senior high lunch is the quietest of the lunch periods because students are on their cell phones.”

“We deal with cell phone issues every day, fights, students in the office crying,” he continued.

Peggy Meyer said, “How can we expect to be a service society and not be able to communicate face to face.”

Research indicates even a cell phone that is turned off, but can be seen is a learning distraction.

Other statements of interest include the following: 80 percent of parents prefer their child does not have a cell phone in the classroom. In England, test scores increase six percent when cell phones were removed from the classroom. Underachievers test scores improved 12 percent. Face to face communication improves mental health. Students make better eye to eye contact with teachers when cell phones are removed from the classroom.

Cook said, “The majority of the staff members are tired of dealing with cell phones.”

Currently a teacher can be disciplined if they do not control cell phone use in their classroom.

“It is hard!” Cook said.

The current cell phone policy was implemented several years ago by the district before every student had their own school computer. Now every student has access to all the technology they need related to classroom instruction.

Board members seemed to be in agreement that they must address the cell phone issue, but they did not agree on how to accomplish the task.

Administrators were instructed to prepare two choices for the board as an action item at the December meeting related to cell phone usage during school; the Yondr program and a no cell phone at school choice. Information requested included costs, policy and handbook changes.

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Issues of concern included diabetic students whose cell phone helps them monitor their insulin.

The only action items were the approval of the consent agenda and approval of October claims from the general fund in the amount of $632,870.80.

Matt Sullivan, board president, presented Corissa Arickx the teacher of the quarter award. She was highly praised for leading the social studies team through curriculum development, also her meticulous preparation for classroom instruction and her assistance with the drama department.

Fourth and fifth grade teachers talked about the changes in the intervention enrichment time. Fourth and fifth grade students have been divided into four groups based on the MAPS scores. Math and reading skills are addressed based on the student’s needs. Teachers rotate between the groups. They were excited about the progress and student excitement. Groups meet for a half hour every day.

Jodi Fierstien, elementary principal, distributed an example of a fourth grade report card using standards reference grading. The report is designed to report specifically what skills each student needs help with and where they are proficient. It is expected to assist both parents and staff in helping students achieve.

She reported that 36 elementary students are receiving after school tutoring with 16 adult volunteers.

Student safety continues to be addressed. There are now cameras and an intercom station outside the elementary front doors which are now locked. A new service window to the elementary office has been completed and windows in the commons area are glazed so one cannot see through them.

Entry doors into the high school are glazed and feature the school logo. One can no longer see through them.

Bob Cook reported that both the A and B teams of the junior high girls basketball team are undefeated and the junior high wrestling team is doing exceptionally well. Senior high winter sports practice began Wednesday.


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