Submitted by John Glover, Founder & CEO, Alpha Public Schools; Principal, Blanca Alvarado Middle School
Note: The information in this profile represents SY2012-13 unless otherwise indicated.
History and context
Blanca Alvarado Middle School is the flagship school under the Charter Management Organization Alpha Public Schools. Blanca Alvarado Middle School is in its first year of operation. Alpha Public Schools plans to open more charter schools in the near future.
Alpha Public Schools’ mission is to prepare students in low-income communities with the knowledge, skills, and character traits necessary to succeed in college and careers.
Program model: Station Rotation
Students rotate between online instruction and offline group activities in the classroom at a brick-and-mortar school within each course.
How much time do students spend on campus in this blended-learning program? How much of this time do students spend learning online or with educational software?
Students attend campus five days per week. Fifty percent of student time in blended math and language arts courses is spent online.
Briefly describe the offline components of this blended-learning program.
Students rotate between online activities and small group instruction. Half of the students are engaged in offline activities at any given time. Which students are working online vs. offline is determined by student progress.
How does this blended-learning program fit into the rest of the students’ school day?
Science, social studies and electives courses other than foreign language courses are not blended. Students also have a 45-minute “enrichment period” which allows them to work more on subjects where they struggle or attempt more challenging coursework.
What are the teachers’ roles and responsibilities in both the online and offline components of this blended-learning program?
Teachers refine student rotation groups and shape daily instruction in small groups based on student progress. Using a data dashboard, teachers identify students needing peer coaching or direct instruction to better understand content.
What other adults are involved in this blended-learning program (e.g., paraprofessionals, learning coaches, counselors) and what are their roles and responsibilities?
Learning coaches rotate between two classrooms and provide face-to-face support (tutoring, feedback) for students working through online content.
Briefly describe the set-up of physical space for this blended-learning program.
Contained with a single classroom, the learning environment is split between an area where students work individually on computers and where students can work in small groups or receive one-on-one assistance.
How are students grouped within this blended-learning program?
Core academic groupings within the blended-learning program are based on available data of past performance. MAP (NWEA) data is weighted most heavily. Groupings are updated as supported by data. Students also have academic enrichment blocks. They have choice with accountability about how they spend this time. Teachers and students review other data sources, like online content provider activity results, daily assessments, interim assessments, etc. and then co-create an individualized learning plan that drives these choices. Finally, full-time learning coaches provide small group interventions based on exit ticket data and MAP data.
Do students have some element of control over the pacing of their learning? Are students tied to a semester-based course schedule or can they complete courses at any time? Briefly describe any requirements or benchmarks in place to ensure student progress.
Yes. Though there are elements of the instructional program that are universal and students are responsible for mastering grade-level standards, they have control over path and pace during academic enrichment blocks. Students demonstrate mastery by reaching certain thresholds in teacher-created assessments that have been uploaded into Mastery Connect, as well as activities and assessments created by online content providers. Students who meet this threshold then have greater autonomy to own and drive their own educational decisions.
Describe any other distinctive characteristics of this blended-learning program if they have not been captured above.
Despite ongoing challenges in identifying which data are most predictive and informative, and in integrating data effectively, students at Alpha are embracing our data-driven culture. They are learning to review and analyze their data, use this information to motivate themselves and make good choices about their own educations. They are developing a greater sense of agency, seeking answers to questions and actively engaging with content rather than passively receiving it.
Describe the academic results of the program, using quantitative data where possible.
Because the school opened just months before this profile was created, it’s too early to cite many academic results. However, the school does have have two MAP data points, one of which is from the second week of summer school, and they indicate significant growth for a majority of students.
Describe any financial impact this blended-learning program has had on your cost of operations. Use numbers when possible.
Alpha Public Schools will be sustainable on recurring public funding by year three of operations. More detailed financial information will be available at the end of the summer.
What have been the biggest obstacles in implementing this blended-learning program? What has needed adjustment along the way?
For a first-year school in a first-year organization, the greatest challenges have been typical: recruiting students and teachers, fundraising, securing a facility, establishing a strong school culture, etc. With respect to blended learning, we have struggled with data integration, effectively training and supporting teachers, balancing risk tolerance and innovation with the responsibility of ensuring that the academic program is effective, and selecting and creating meaningful content and assessments.
For more information, see:
Name: John Glover
Title: Founder & CEO, Alpha Public Schools; Principal, Blanca Alvarado Middle School
Email: [email protected]
Phone: 401268 6288