New cellphone policy keeps texting down, productivity up at Camden charter school

A charter school in the City of Camden is getting creative when it comes to controlling students’ cellphone use in the classroom.
“There’s a point where people pay attention to their cellphones more than they pay attention to the actual lesson itself,” says Freedom Prep Charter School freshman Jaiden Jiles.
But this will no longer be the case now that the school is implementing Yondr pouches. It is a new program at the school.
When students arrive at the middle and high schools, they will be instructed to put their phones inside of the Yondr pouch and lock them. They can keep it with them during the day, but only at the end of the day can they unlock the pouch and take their phones out.
“The first day was a lot of pushback, but rightly so…Change is a process,” says Dr. Claudio Cerullo, senior director of Climate and Culture for the charter school.
Students say that it has been an adjustment.
“Some people are breaking open the Yondr pouches. Some people aren’t. Some people are focused, we’re seeing a bunch of different behaviors,” says junior Amad Tilghman.
“The Yondr was something I really didn’t think would work honestly, but I did think I did improve a lot academically and I’m much happier with the grades that I’ve got now than before,” says seventh-grader Isaac Pachecl.
The school says that bullying has become a major issue and that the pouches have helped to reduce behavioral incidents like fights. The students say that they have also noticed a change.
"Everything started becoming less noisy and people just started to do their work,” says seventh grader Azucena Valdez.
"We've seen more students on task, we've seen students attentive. We've heard communication, dialogue between one another. There's been more focus on instruction,” says Cerullo.
School officials say the No. 1 concern they received from families is what would happen in the event of an emergency in the school. Officials say that they have an all-call system that alerts parents if something were to happen.