Students test 'teach to one' learning system

 

8211236

WASHINGTON — It might seem to be a less-than-realistic plan: Put nearly 200 preteens in one large classroom space and expect each of them, with the help of laptops and a few teachers, to learn math at his or her own pace.

But that arrangement is at the core of a new instructional approach that one of the District of Columbia's lowest-performing middle schools adopted this fall.

Pioneered in New York and expanding to other cities, "Teach to One" puts a computer algorithm in charge of figuring out what each child needs to learn and do each day, a design meant to ensure that students master one concept before moving onto another.

"If it works like we think it will, it'll be a game-changer," said D.C. schools Chancellor Kaya Henderson of the new program at Hart Middle School in Southeast Washington, where less than 30 percent of students are proficient in math.

This is the leading edge of the larger "blended learning" movement that many reformers think could transform education in the United States, harnessing technology to help teachers deliver personalized lessons to every child.

The federal government is throwing its weight behind the effort, too, offering $400 million in competitive Race to the Top grants to school systems that put forth innovative plans for tailoring education for individual students.

But for all the buzz and investment, experts say there is scant evidence that such blended approaches are more effective than traditional teaching, and there are many unanswered questions about what it means for school budgets and teachers' working conditions.

And the programs don't come cheap: It cost $1 million to bring Teach to One to a single classroom at Hart Elementary this year.

Western Michigan University Professor Gary Miron, a prominent critic of full-time online schools where students learn entirely by laptop at home, said he is far more optimistic about blended programs. But he urged caution, saying each model should be tested and evaluated before it is expanded.

"I certainly think it's worth a try on a small scale to test these ideas, and be willing to back out if it doesn't work," Miron said.

The unanswered questions about blended learning are no deterrent for educators grasping for a solution to persistently low student achievement.

"To me it was a no-brainer: Very little risk and big return," said Dominick D'Angelo, principal of David Boody Jr. Junior High School in Brooklyn, N.Y., among the first three schools to try what is now Teach to One, in 2010. "I thought, 'It can't be worse than traditional instruction.' "

It's certainly louder than traditional instruction. Veteran teachers say they're not bothered by the din, reminiscent of a bustling diner at breakfast when 150 sixth-graders crowded into one room at Boody on a recent afternoon.

"You learn to tune the noise out," said Gerard Joe-Yen, a math teacher who delivered a lecture on long division that held the attention of a dozen students despite the distractions.

In Teach to One, students arriving to class receive a "playlist" of lessons to work on that day with one of the multiple teachers in the room. The students are grouped with others who are slated to learn the same skill that day.

Some huddle, working on problems together; others learn directly from teachers in a more traditional lecture-style format. And some log on to laptops to watch instructional videos and complete online work sheets.

At the end of the day, each child takes a five-question quiz. A computer program digests the results, decides whether the student is ready to move on to a new concept, and spits out a plan for the next day, regrouping students and sending them to different teachers.

Results so far have been mixed. Two of the initial three New York schools dropped the program at the end of that first year.

But Boody, where test scores hadn't budged the first year, kept at it. And the second year yielded gains. The proportion of students proficient in math on state tests grew nearly five percentage points — faster than the city average and faster than New York schools with comparable demographics.

Joel Rose and Christopher Rush developed the program as a project of the New York City Department of Education, building it around the conviction that students should be taught exactly what they need to know — a feat that many teachers say is nearly impossible in a regular classroom filled with 30 students at 30 different levels.

"There's just a serious design flaw in that model," said Rose, who left city government last year and with Rush spun off a nonprofit group to spread their concept across the country. "Each kid is unique and they have their own strengths and academic needs, and their own ways of learning and their own interests."

Teach to One has secured $13 million in foundation support and is in eight schools: five in New York, two in Chicago and at Hart in Washington, where teachers and students are adjusting to the recent change.

"There are rough patches," said Araceli Flores, one of seven math teachers at Hart, but "there are also moments when you can see it working."

Rose and Rush, who hope to expand Teach to One into new subject areas and into 50 to 100 schools over the next five years, said they're tweaking the program daily. They made substantial revisions this fall, including adding a component that gives teachers the chance to teach deeper problem-solving skills by working with the same group of students several times over two weeks.

"We don't have this all figured out yet, but we think we're on the right track," Rush said.

Life and Style
life
Voices
The Ukip leader has consistently refused to be drawn on where he would mount an attempt to secure a parliamentary seat
voicesNigel Farage: Those who predicted we would lose momentum heading into the 2015 election are going to have to think again
News
Joan Rivers has reportedly been hospitalised after she stopped breathing during surgery
people81-year-old 'stopped breathing' during vocal chord surgery
Life and Style
Chen Mao recovers in BK Hospital, Seoul
health
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Life and Style
One in six drivers cannot identify a single one of the main components found under the bonnet of an average car
motoringOne in six drivers can't carry out basic under-bonnet checks
News
news
Environment
Fungi pose the biggest threat globally and in the UK, where they threaten the country’s wheat and potato harvests
environmentCrop pests are 'grave threat to global food security'
News
i100
Voices
Pupils educated at schools like Eton (pictured) are far more likely to succeed in politics and the judiciary, the report found
voices
Arts and Entertainment
Simon Cowell is less than impressed with the Strictly/X Factor scheduling clash
tvSimon Cowell blasts BBC for breaking 'gentlemen's agreement' in scheduling war
Arts and Entertainment
Shady character: Jon Hamm as sports agent JB Bernstein in Million Dollar Arm
filmReview: Jon Hamm finally finds the right role on the big screen in Million Dollar Arm
News
Orson Welles made Citizen Kane at 25, and battled with Hollywood film studios thereafter
people
News
Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie reportedly married in secret on Saturday
peopleSpokesperson for couple confirms they tied the knot on Saturday after almost a decade together
Sport
footballAnd Liverpool are happy despite drawing European champions
News
i100
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SQL Report Analyst (SSRS, CA, SQL 2012)

£30000 - £38500 Per Annum + 25 days holiday, pension, subsidised restaurant: C...

PE Assistant Secondary School

£12000 - £13200 per annum: Randstad Education Manchester Secondary: PE assista...

Sociology Teacher

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester Secondary: - KS5 Sociology Teacher -...

Primary supply teachers needed in Bury St Edmunds

£21000 - £35000 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Supply teachers requi...

Day In a Page

Ukraine crisis: The phoney war is over as Russian troops and armour pour across the border

The phoney war is over

Russian troops and armour pour into Ukraine
Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

The world’s entire food system is under attack - and Britain is most at risk, according to a new study
Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Seoul's plastic surgery industry is booming thanks to the popularity of the K-Pop look
From Mozart to Orson Welles: Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

After the death of Sandy Wilson, 90, who wrote his only hit musical in his twenties, John Walsh wonders what it's like to peak too soon and go on to live a life more ordinary
Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Fears are mounting that Vladimir Putin has instructed hackers to target banks like JP Morgan
Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years

Salomé: A head for seduction

Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years. Now audiences can meet the Biblical femme fatale in two new stage and screen projects
From Bram Stoker to Stanley Kubrick, the British Library's latest exhibition celebrates all things Gothic

British Library celebrates all things Gothic

Forthcoming exhibition Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination will be the UK's largest ever celebration of Gothic literature
The Hard Rock Café's owners are embroiled in a bitter legal dispute - but is the restaurant chain worth fighting for?

Is the Hard Rock Café worth fighting for?

The restaurant chain's owners are currently embroiled in a bitter legal dispute
Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival

In search of Caribbean soul food

Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival
11 best face powders

11 best face powders

Sweep away shiny skin with our pick of the best pressed and loose powder bases
England vs Norway: Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Lack of Englishmen at leading Premier League clubs leaves manager hamstrung
Angel Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

Di Maria and Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

They both inherited the iconic shirt at Old Trafford, but the £59.7m new boy is joining a club in a very different state
Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

America’s new apartheid

Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone