Beyond Blended Learning: Summit Public Schools

Source: Dell Foundation, Sep 2012

As an organization, Summit Public Schools is focused on preparing all students not only to attend but to succeed in four-year colleges and beyond. To better meet that goal, we began, in the summer of 2011, to explore ways to accelerate our students’ learning. We were especially interested in addressing academic gaps that dated back to elementary and middle school. Our belief was that technology offered us the ability to create a more personalized learning environment for every individual student, delivering exactly what they need, when they need it and how they need it.

Step one: Testing the model

To test this theory, we launched a targeted blended learning pilot in partnership with Khan Academy last fall. We started small, with just 200 ninth grade students in our two San Jose schools. We designed a blended learning curriculum that could support the mastery of ninth grade math concepts including algebra I and geometry. The model also included daily individualized learning time to ensure students could address any academic gaps. The pilot was a success. Our students achieved significant growth, filling academic gaps with a higher degree of success than we had experienced in our previous ten years of non-blended and personalized efforts.

Step two: Optimizing the whole school

However, we quickly realized that to truly personalize learning for all students, we needed to move beyond the targeted approach to blended learning we’d taken in the pilot. We needed to rethink the entire school experience. Every element of the school, from how learning spaces are designed, to the use of time, to the role of the educator, needed to be personalized for, and centered around, our students.

We have come to believe deeply that the most effective way to personalize learning is to provide what we are calling an optimized school model, which we will be piloting in our San Jose schools this coming year and launching in our first two next generation schools in the fall of 2013.

In our optimized school model, we are:

  1. Reimagining the physical classroom and school environment by removing walls to create an open architecture learning space that accommodates all learning styles, as well as individual workstations for students.
  2. Redesigning teacher roles to move towards teams of educators, which can include teachers, learning coaches, intervention specialists and data analysts.
  3. Removing the restrictions of traditional grade levels to give students the true freedom to move at their own pace. Students are placed in one of three learning phases – High School Ready, College Ready and Early College – and progress through them, based upon mastery of all the standards of a learning phase.
  4. Empowering students to take charge of their own learning by shifting away from the teacher-directed rotations (e.g., between digital learning and face-to-face instruction) typical of most blended environments. In our optimized school model, students can fully self-direct their learning. Students log-on to a learning management system each day to select a customized learning playlist, including online apps and other programs, that helps them move through a set of personalized learning goals.

Add’l ACE Reading HERE, Jan 2013

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