Providing individualized instruction for struggling learners
Turning Around a Struggling School
The BRICK academies, Avon and Peshine, are pioneers in education— teachers serve as both educators and administrators in each of the schools. In fact, the Build Responsible, Intelligent, and Creative Kids (BRICK) organization is a not-for-profit school management organization originated by Newark teachers who originally served through Teach for America.
The ideas is that teachers are the core of any school turnaround and having a laser focus on teacher quality and development will yield greater results.
To perfect the model, BRICK entered into partnership with the Newark Public Schools to take over two underperforming schools, Avon and Peshine. Both schools have a near 100 percent minority rate with more than 90 percent of students qualifying for a free or reduced-cost lunch program. Before BRICK intervened, the schools were struggling significantly. For example, at Avon in 2009, only 16 percent of students were reading on grade level.
Unprecedented differentiated instruction
Dominique Lee, the founder of BRICK and Executive Director of BRICK, knew what to expect from the students who attend the schools: “I noticed immediately that Avon had high extremes, low extremes, and medium extremes in terms of student abilities. I needed a solution that could help with individualizing instruction.” Even though class sizes at the BRICK schools are kept below a 20-to-1 ratio, the wide ranges of abilities are beyond any one teacher’s skills in regard to differentiating instruction.
DreamBox was chosen because of their extensive experience in working with low-income, low-performing schools, as well as the system’s flexibility to integrate with BRICK’s blended learning strategy.
Blended learning with purpose
For struggling students, the closer you can get to 1-on-1 attention, the better the chances for success. To that end, BRICK utilizes a rotational blended learning model with the goal that students work mainly in small groups, with possible remediation and enrichment when necessary. A concept is introduced as a whole, then the students are rotated through three individual centers: small groups, a Teacher Mediation Center where students receive more targeted help on concepts not yet mastered, and finally 60 to 90 minutes on the computers per day, where DreamBox is helping to guide them through their own personalized curriculum based on existing knowledge gaps.
“We expect all of our teachers to use technology daily during their math instruction. We believe technology— and DreamBox in particular—is a strong resource to use during remediation and enrichment of students,” said Lee.