As we wrap up our own blended learning series, we saw some interesting conversations cropping up around key questions that are emerging as the practice gains steam.
- Several stories around the potential for competency-based grouping- rather than traditional grade or age-based models – to become a new school norm caught our attention. How will blended learning and data driven instruction techniques affect grouping in K-12 schools?
- The Innosight Institutue’s Michael Horn reflected on the fact that schools staffing for blended learning will need to seek out teachers who have a mix of traditional skills plus a high degree of comfort with the uncertainty inherent in moving to a model that’s still early in its evolution.
- On the foundation blog, Matt Wilka and Brad Bernatek summarized the key take away from our case studies on five blended learning school operators: Blended learning cannot succeed in driving the degree of improvement needed unless it is woven into every element of a school. “Too often pressures from in and outside of the system make reform a zero-sum game, where a focus on teachers might come at the cost of engaging parents, or emphasizing class size overlooks financial constraints,” they write. “Blended learning has the potential to address this dilemma. In each school we studied, blended learning enriches multiple ingredients that go into a great school, thereby easing the either/or challenge of reform.”
Data to improve rather than prove
We saw several pieces this week that reminded us of our key thesis about data: That it should be used for action and improvement, not just compliance or record keeping. Interestingly, these pieces played out across sectors:
- In San Antonio, school data about chronic absenteeism was used not to berate kids or parents, but to orgainize a daily walking escort that would help get children to school.
- The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation reported on a study that found that patients benefit from reading doctors’ visit notes. “OpenNotes set out to answer a simple, but revolutionary, question: What happens when we give patients access to the notes their doctors write about them? The answer: Patients become more active partners in their health care.”
- Too much, too little, or just enough? The Wall Street Journal published a good pro-con piece on data portals that give parents access to their children’s near real time grades, absences, etc. http://t.co/Ozt0aiX0 #edreform #eddata ->
- “Some parents place the systems squarely in the too-much-information category. Crystal Patriarche took one look at her kids’ online system and said, “Omigosh, I don’t have time for this,” says the Chandler, Ariz., website editor and mother of three. “It’s too much work, too much information, one more thing to add to my already full plate.” But her husband loves the system. He says tracking online reports for their daughter Anna, 13, enables him to help her spot her weaknesses and improve her study and planning skills before it’s too late to avert a bad grade. Using the online data, “you can get ahead of it and help your child so they can turn it around before the final,” Mr. Patriarche says.
On world teacher’s day, it only seemed right we should round-out our week’s picks with a paper that focuses on stellar teachers. The first person essays in TNTP’s “Unlocking student effort: How five irreplaceable teachers engage, challenge and inspire students to excellence” offer insight into a range of instructional approaches that drive great results. The key commonality is teachers who see to engage each and every student with a sensde of purpose:
- “If you can create an urgent classroom culture, where each student is busy from the moment they enter, that energy will be infectious and tends to remain high throughout the lesson,” writes Shira Fishman, a math teacher at McKinley Technology High School in DC Public Schools.
- “I want every student in my class to feel that urgency and I try to instill in them the belief that every minute in this classroom is precious.” ”We have to be a little more deliberate in making connections between the content we teach and the lives and dreams of our students. Each should strengthen the other. This is the difference between schooling and education,” writes Whitney Henderson a 7th grade writing teacher and grade team leader at KIPP Central City Academy in