Math Students Outperform Peers by 26 Percent
A blended learning initiative focused on closing the achievement gap
In 2012, the Enlarged City School District of Middletown in the state of New York won a $20 million grant through the Department of Education’s Race to the Top process to facilitate a blended learning revolution in the district. With this grant funding, district leadership had the ability to start implementing a true blended learning model that would empower teachers to address the spectrum of instructional needs in their classrooms. But achieving this goal required an actionable plan, strong leadership, empowered teaching, and partners that specialize in achieving remarkable learning gains with a wide range of students.
Partnerships that provide blended learning guidance and capability
Middletown partnered with DreamBox Learning® and Education Elements, organizations that have demonstrated their ability to help districts and schools make a positive impact on student achievement using blended learning. Education Elements helped district administrators create a three-year implementation plan, starting with the district’s elementary schools and the 33 teachers who were the first to opt-in to the new blended learning model. DreamBox Learning was selected as a digital curriculum component because of its ability to deliver a highly adaptive and deeply personalized learning experience.
“Making learning personal for each student is the only way to close the gap for at-risk students while stretching the goals for the higher ability students,” said Ken Eastwood, Superintendent of Middletown. “Education Elements and DreamBox Learning helped our teachers develop and feel more confident in using digital resources to reinforce and solidify classroom instruction for each student. Through personalized learning, we really can meet instructional goals for ALL students.”
Ongoing professional development is an important component of the program. Education Elements and DreamBox worked alongside leaders and teachers to modify their instructional practice and create a three station rotation model. In this model, one group of students is with the teacher receiving small group direct instruction, one group is working collaboratively together, and one group is working with digital content like DreamBox Learning adaptive curriculum.
While in the DreamBox station, students work through instruction that adapts to their specific instructional needs—whether they need additional support or are ready to accelerate. Teachers access data on student learning to effectively personalize instruction and group students dynamically based on progress and understanding. DreamBox complements classroom instruction strategies. “The same manipulatives that the students and I use in the classroom are those that the students use in DreamBox,” reports Maple Hill teacher Kylie Mollicone.
This provides students with opportunities to build on and connect prior learning experiences, and develop a deeper understanding of mathematical concepts. For example, a student took it upon himself to help peers in his direct instruction group using a strategy for place value that he learned while working in DreamBox. Said Mollicone, “This demonstrates the confidence he had in that new skill.”
On the heels of success, the blended learning initiative expands
When district administrators received the results on the 2014 Northwest Evaluation Association (NWEA) MAP test, they saw the effectiveness of blended learning in their math classrooms. Students in the blended learning classrooms outperformed peers in the traditional classrooms by 26 percent, and made learning gains equivalent to 21 percent more than expected on the test.
As a result, the district expanded the blended learning program to its middle schools in 2014–2015. Over 120 teachers opted-in to blended learning based on the successes and experiences of the first 33, creating classrooms that are technology-rich, forward-thinking, data-driven, and highly personalized learning environments. “The goal of digital learning,” emphasized Mollicone, “is to make personalized learning more efficient. DreamBox Learning and Education Elements have made that happen for us.”