Transitioning to a new learning model
Located in the heart of North Carolina, Rocky Mount Preparatory School is a public charter school serving suburban Rocky Mount, North Carolina. A Title I school, the majority of its students qualify for free and reduced lunch, which is 69% this year. With most of the elementary students below grade level in math, it was a situation that needed to be remedied from ‘the ground up.’ “Just to illustrate the lack of background knowledge some of our kids have,” remarks Angela Langley, Dean of Math, “some of our kindergarten students don’t know their numbers or the alphabet.”
After years of student math under performance and a need to transition to upcoming Common Core State Standards that would only highlight students’ background learning gaps, Langley describes the situation as “the perfect storm.”
The answer was a new strategy and learning model to accelerate the closure of achievement gaps.
Finding and fixing the gaps
After reviewing many options, Rocky Mount Prep decided on a blended learning approach that would leverage both the Singapore Method and a supplemental online learning solution.
Singapore Math is a teaching model in which instructional time is saved by not re-teaching concepts from previous semesters. Most students can quickly make great gains, but those who have skill gaps run the risk of falling further behind.
To identify those gaps, and reinforce the basics while providing the rigor required by the Common Core, the school decided on DreamBox and its Intelligent Adaptive Learning™ engine. “We were impressed by DreamBox Learning’s excellent track record of supporting blended learning and Singapore Math,” says Langley, “and by its proven ability to identify and isolate gaps, remedy them, and enable learners to advance alongside their peers.”
Daily rotation for every K–5 student
To support the new math strategies, Rocky Mount Preparatory School designed a new Learning Lab to accommodate 100 students at a time. A rotation schedule was set that gave every elementary student 90-minute intervals in the Learning Lab every school day. Then the ISTEEP assessment was administered so each student would have a customized curriculum, whether it was below, on par or above grade level. DreamBox Learning’s effectiveness as an intervention tool for struggling math learners was fundamental to ensuring that students did not become frustrated with the new blended learning model.
“DreamBox Learning’s super engaging, game-like environment was a natural for the students and they just jumped right in.”
— Angela Langley, Dean of Math Rocky Mount Preparatory School
“DreamBox Learning’s super engaging, game-like environment was a natural for the students and they just jumped right in,” notes Langley. Even the younger children, who initially needed instruction on computing basics such as using a mouse, were thoroughly exploring and enjoying the lessons and needed very little intervention from the teachers during their Learning Lab time. Learning gains on the scale that Rocky Mount was looking to achieve do not happen in the classroom alone, so the flexibility that DreamBox allowed—to be used anywhere, at any time—was crucial to achieving success. Rocky Mount Preparatory School made DreamBox available for use from home, and encouraged parents to participate in and support their child’s learning process.
From left behind to working ahead
Things at Rocky Mount have changed for the better in a relatively short amount of time. At the beginning of the 2012 school year, a majority of students entering kindergarten were working below grade level. At mid-year, all were at or above grade level. Many have moved on to 1st grade lessons and some have even accelerated to the 2nd grade curriculum.
“Educators such as Rocky Mount Prep school who are embracing Blended Learning by implementing a state of the art Learning Lab and programs like DreamBox are giving their students the best possible opportunity to gain the skills they will need to succeed in the 21st century”
— Michael B. Horn Education Executive Director and Co-Founder, Innosight Institute
Measured results for the 3rd graders have exceeded expectations. “When the ISTEEP pre-test was administered at the beginning of the 2012–2013 school year,” Langley reports, “all of Rocky Mount Prep’s 3rd graders were labeled as working below grade level. In a midyear assessment, more than 76 percent were at grade level or above.”
Angela Langley expects even greater gains when end-of-year assessments roll around. She sums up the power of DreamBox by saying, “Every child at any level of proficiency stays engaged and keeps on learning.”