Closing gaps for profoundly struggling students
Differentiation to meet the needs of all students
New Orleans-based mSchool, a revolutionary concept in math education, partners with community- based afterschool programs and schools to turn free space into accredited, math remediation “microSchools.” The mSchool online platform leverages blended learning to help struggling students succeed in math in unprecedented ways. Ninety-six percent of the students that mSchool classrooms serve are from low income communities, with the average student as many as four years behind their peers in math capability.
mSchool founder, Elliot Sanchez, has won a number of awards for his innovative work, most recently being named as one of Forbes'”30 Under 30 in Education.”Through his own teaching experience, Sanchez knew the only way to help students during the short timeframe offered by after- school programs was to differentiate the learning experience for each student. “Adaptive software,” says Sanchez,”makes a huge impact in learner progress.” mSchools use adaptive technology within a blended learning environment to individually challenge every student.
Personalized learning in just one classroom
For students who have previously experienced very little success in math, engagement is a huge priority. As a start-up initiative, the mSchool locations also need to collect substantial data to inform the program stakeholders. Each classroom collects over 250,000 academic data points each year. DreamBox met all of those needs and more. “DreamBox is one of our best tools. It forms the backbone of our curriculum for elementary and middle school students, and has been effective with high school students working at that level as well,” reports Sanchez.
Student-driven learning with minimal adult support
The mSchool model flexible model means that within just 24 hours, an existing space can be turned into a blended learning lab in either an existing school or an afterschool program in a community center. There can be as many as 25 students in a classroom, with up to three adults who facilitate learning. These learning guides help students navigate the program and provide the socioemotional learning curriculum mSchool believes is central to student success: personal responsibility and love of independent learning. For the most part, math instruction is almost entirely student- driven through working with DreamBox on their connected devices. But for students to drive that education, they must be engaged. “We’ve used DreamBox with students that have not previously seen success in math. DreamBox is incredibly successful at helping these kids let down their guard—and the compelling gaming element is instrumental to their success. Once they meet challenging material, they are so invested in the process that locations are open four days per week, with students attending from 60 and 90 minutes each day. Some schools have chosen to make mSchool attendance mandatory for students who have been identified as profoundly struggling. While most mSchool students are in Grades 8 through 10, the individualized content prescribed by the DreamBox system for those same students spans Grades 4 through 8, some of whom are four years behind expectation.
Engagement and rewards lead to student success
In just eighteen months of operation, the program has grown from one pilot location in a community center during the 2012–2013 school year, to more than 24 locations throughout louisiana. This growth is because the mSchool formula—with the help of DreamBox— is working. In a longitudinal study completed last year that compared state assessment data from students who participated in an mSchool classroom with their counterparts in school who did not participate, the mSchool students made gains equivalent to 2.9 years of learning compared to what their cohorts learned in one full school year!
“DreamBox does a fantastic job of balancing kids’ comfort level, engagement, and success within their zone of proximal development. They are a key partner in our future goals and strategies.”
—Elliot Sanchez, Founder
The future holds even more aggressive growth for mSchool, including the potential addition of 20 additional cities and other international locations later this year. When a revolutionary idea like mSchool comes along, it takes an innovative partner like DreamBox to accomplish the lofty goals they’ve set for their students.