Note: The information in this profile represents SY2011-12 unless otherwise indicated.

School/organization overview

Name Stillwater Area Public Schools
Type District
Locale Rural
Headquarters Stillwater, Minnesota
First year of operation
Grades served PreK-12
Enrollment  8,400
% FRL 15.7%
% Black or Hispanic 6%
Per-pupil funding $5,174

Blended-learning program

Name N/A
Focus General
Year launched SY2011-12
Outside investments/grants
Enrollment 650
Blended grades 4-6
Blended subjects Math
Content Self-developed
SIS Skyward
Independent LMS Moodle
Independent gradebook Skyward
Independent assessment Moodle
Professional development

Program model

Program model: Flipped Classroom

Model description
After school at the location of their choice, students watch online instructional videos and complete comprehension quizzes. At school they practice and apply their learning with a face-to-face teacher.

Program background

History and context
Stillwater Area Public Schools (SAPS) is a suburban district that serves 18 towns along the St. Croix River in Minnesota. The district has 8,400 students in 10 elementary schools (grades K-6), two junior high schools (grades 7-9), one high school (grades 10-12), and one alternative learning center (grades 10-12).

From September 2011 until January 2012, the district implemented a Flipped-Classroom pilot program with six 5th-grade math teachers from five different elementary schools. Students viewed teacher-created lecture videos after school and then completed practice problems in class with the help of their teachers (thus “flipping” the traditional model of lectures in school and practice problems at home). To prepare for the pilot, participating teachers completed a four-day summer training  to learn the basics of video production, techniques for effectively understanding student data, and strategies for restructuring class time. Teachers produced videos explaining concepts traditionally taught in class using ScreenFlow, a microphone, and a tablet. The videos were then posted in Moodle and to the district’s podcast feed server so that students could access them from their home computers, tablets, or smart phones. Technology integration specialists provided DVDs or iPod Touches with the videos preloaded to students who do not have Internet access at home.

Parents, teachers, and students felt the pilot was a success and the decision was made to expand to the program to 26 classrooms in grades 4-6. As the program has grown, increased specialization and coordination amongst teachers has evolved. Grade-level teachers have made arrangements such that one teacher will make the videos, a different teacher will create the quizzes for understanding, another will refine additional learning materials, and yet another will assist in managing the Moodle pages. As of this writing there is at least one flipped classroom in each of the district’s 10 elementary schools. The district currently supports 26 teachers using the Flipped-Classroom model.

Blended model
Students are assigned lecture videos created by their teachers to watch most weeknights at home. After viewing the lecture (with the ability to pause or rewind at any time), students complete a short quiz online through Moodle to demonstrate their understanding. Students who did not have Internet access at home are able to complete the short quizzes the following day at school. Teachers use this daily data to inform their plans for class.

When students enter the classroom, they are expected to have watched the video. If they have not, they are directed to an iPad or computer station to catch up. Teachers’ lesson plans vary according to style and student needs, but generally teachers spend anywhere from 2 to 10 minutes reviewing the concept in front of the whole class, depending on the students’ understanding as demonstrated on the quiz scores. After this quick review, students break out into groups to work on practice problems (what would be considered homework questions in a traditional classroom). Teachers circle the classroom to help students individually or in small groups. If a student completes her “homework” in-class before her peers and has demonstrated mastery of the concept(s), then she is free to move ahead at her own pace by watching the next lecture video in the series.

Notable results
During the pilot and continuing through the school year, teachers, parents and students have all expressed enthusiasm for the Flipped-Classroom model. Teachers estimate that they previously spent 45 to 50 minutes of a 75-minute block lecturing to students; now that students learn content prior to coming to class, teachers can spend the majority of class time working closely with students on conceptual understanding rather than lecturing. SAPS teachers report that they enjoy this restructuring of scheduling and feel that it improves student engagement and learning. Parents of students in flipped classrooms have expressed that they enjoy learning concepts along with their children and struggle much less with encouraging their children to complete their homework. Students have been continually excited about the “flip” as the program has expanded.

The flipped classrooms have shown to be effective in accelerating student learning: eight weeks into the pilot program the flipped classrooms were already one to two weeks ahead of the district’s pacing schedule.

The program has proved to be cost neutral.

On the horizon
This summer SAPS will begin a Flipped-Classroom model curriculum for one-third of its 4th-grade math classes, nearly all of its 5th-grade math classes, and about one-quarter of its 6th-grade math classes. The district hopes to also flip its 3rd-grade math classes in the future. The growth has been and will continue to be largely teacher-driven. District technology administrators anticipate that other elementary school subjects will begin to move toward the Flipped- Classroom model as early as next year as a result of teacher enthusiasm.

Given that an entire year’s worth of videos are now available for 5th-grade math classes, the district plans to give incoming 5th graders access to the videos in the summer so that they can begin to prepare for the coming year. They also hope the videos will be useful for incoming 6th graders, allowing them to review familiar concepts before the new school year.

Beginning in the 2012-2013 school year, the district will be partnering with the University of Minnesota to conduct a rigorous academic study of its Flipped-Classroom model.


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