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Teaching large classes with small budgets to support 21st Century skills

As educators and administrators work to teach students 21st century skills, they are facing a significant hurdle: larger class sizes and smaller budgets. In fact, 35 states are providing less per-pupil funding than they did just five years ago and 17 states have cut per-pupil funding by more than 10 percent since 2008. School districts are employing a number of strategies to make sure that they are increasing achievement despite their limited resources.

1. Web-based learning

Web-based learning is becoming increasingly popular as it becomes clear that using technology in the classroom can cut costs. In traditional school models, average expenditures per pupil amount to about to $10,000, while those in blended learning environments are $8,900, and expenditures are only $6,400 for fully online models. All but two states offer students some online learning opportunities, and a 2009 study conducted by the U.S. Department of Education indicated that technology in education in the form of online learning can lead to better student performance.

2. Adaptive learning systems

Another strategy for dealing with shrinking budgets and growing class sizes is the adoption of adaptive learning systems. A crucial part of a 21st century education in many parts of the United States, adaptive learning systems can tailor instruction to match the pace and knowledge of each student – in effect, acting as a personal tutor. The success of this tactic has been demonstrated in schools such as Penngrove Elementary in California, where one teacher’s class size increased by 48 percent. Despite the reduction in one-on-one time with the teacher in class, students’ math scores soared after using DreamBox.

3. Data-based decision making

The constant collection of data when students use adaptive learning software allows schools to take part in data-based decision making. This information can be used to take note of student progress throughout the year and address problems on both an individual and class level. This fusion of technology and education can lead to often dramatically shorter assessment cycles, which helps teachers both plan and adapt their approach to instruction so that it’s most effective for the entire class.

4. Professional development

While it’s important to focus on what can be done in the classroom to improve student achievement, giving teachers access to adequate professional development will give them the tools they need to help students succeed in this new school environment. This can range from collaboration between teachers to participation in summer institutes and workshops. Teachers, like their students, should be encouraged to ask questions and reflect on what they have learned and how it can be implemented.

What strategies have you used to make sure larger class sizes don’t affect student achievement? For more information about the future of education, check out this free whitepaper from DreamBox.

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