Submitted by Raquel Kusunoki, Principal, Joseph Weller Elementary School
Note: The information in this profile represents 2013-14 unless otherwise indicated. To view Joseph Weller Elementary School SY2012-13 profile, click here.
Joseph Weller Elementary School is part of the Milpitas School District and was one of two elementary schools chosen by the district to pilot blended learning for the 2012-13 school year. The school’s blended-learning model was strategically crafted by Weller staff with the intent of providing a rich learning experience through a multimodal design. The fixed schedule lab rotation which included face-to-face interactions through small group teacher-led instruction; student led collaboration, and customized online learning, helped enhance student motivation and engagement.
Blended Learning Program
Program model: Lab Rotation
For their primary courses (Math and English Language Arts/Social Studies), students at Joseph Weller Elementary School rotate on a fixed schedule between two different locations, one of which is a learning lab used predominantly for online learning. The other location is a classroom where students engage in offline learning modalities such as face-to-face instruction and group work.
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 are required to spend 100 percent of the school week on campus and students spend at least 70 minutes every day learning online or using educational software. Students engage in online learning in a school computer lab as part of a three-part rotation.
Briefly describe the offline components of this blended-learning program.
For both Math and English Language Arts/Social Studies, students rotate through three stations, two of which include offline activities in the classroom, such as teacher-led instruction or collaborative group work. The teacher-led instruction and collaborative work is very similar to the offline work done in a traditional school, as teachers can deliver lecture-based instruction or assign math practice problems. In the collaborative station students can work on group projects or on reading comprehension, novel study, or guided reading, depending on the teacher’s plan.
How does this blended-learning program fit into the rest of the students’ school day?
The blended-learning program at Joseph Weller Elementary School comprises the majority of the students’ school day. School begins at 8:00 a.m. with a whole-school assembly and then students have a 45-minute block for offline work in language proficiency. At 9:00 a.m., students start their lab rotations with either a two-hour math block or a two-hour English Language Arts/Social Studies block. The lab rotation starts with 15 minutes of teacher-led general instruction and then each station in the rotation is 35 minutes long. After the first lab rotation, students have lunch and then they go back into a lab rotation in the subject that they didn’t take in the morning. Also, once a week students take what the school calls SPA (Science, Phys. Ed., Art), but only the science portion of that class has a lab rotation, although students may go to the school computer lab instead of the learning lab.
What are the teachers’ roles and responsibilities in both the online and offline components of this blended-learning program?
In the offline components of the blended-learning program, teachers have traditional responsibilities that include face-to-face instruction, leading reading discussions, managing the classroom dynamic, grading assignments, and planning lessons and projects that relate to the students’ online learning. They are also responsible for designing the scope of the learning for all students and creating a learning pathway for students using the digital software and online content. The school also gives teachers-of-record four hours of professional development time during which teachers are analyzing student data and planning weekly instruction. The teachers-of-record do not accompany students to the learning lab. The school employs a separate highly qualified and credentialed teacher who works in the learning lab overseeing student progress, answering questions and problems that students might have, and making sure students are staying on track with their assignments.
What other adults are involved in this blended-learning program (e.g., paraprofessionals, learning coaches, counselors) and what are their roles and responsibilities?
The school employs two paraprofessionals who help support the teacher and the students in the learning lab, Also, the school welcomes parent volunteers to help in the learning lab. The school principal and assistant principal are both intimately involved in the administration of the blended-learning program and an IT director provides other support for technological issues.
Briefly describe the set-up of physical space for this blended-learning program.
School classrooms are relatively standard and are furnished with either desks or tables that are oriented so that the teacher can see the whole classroom and all students. Tables and desks are grouped together for the collaboration station and in some classes there are bean bags chairs that students can use while working. The learning lab is in its own standalone building, less than a one-minute walk from the classrooms. The school intentionally tried to keep the learning lab from looking like an office full of cubicles, by adding modernized, movable furniture such as couches and bean bag chairs. The lab also has an area designed to look like the Genius Bar at an Apple store. The idea was to make the space feel more like a coffee shop with open spaces and comfortable furniture rather than rows of desks or cubicles. There are no desktop computers in the learning lab. The school provides 150 Chromebooks for students to use for their online learning while they are in the learning lab.
How are students grouped within this blended-learning program?
Students are grouped together based on skills and need. During the lab rotation, teachers create three mini-groups to rotate through the stations and they try to group students together based on their learning speed and achievement level. These groups are designed to be fluid and teachers use real-time student data to change the student groupings every six to eight weeks.
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.
Students are not tied to a semester-based course schedule but the school does use quarterly benchmark assessments to ensure student progress. Otherwise, students have a lot of control over the pacing of their learning as they can progress through the online curriculum as quickly or as slowly as they want. If a student is progressing rapidly through the coursework at his/her grade level, he or she can take the final benchmark assessment early and, move on to more advanced content that might be intended for a higher grade level, upon passing that assessment.
Describe the academic results of the program, using quantitative data where possible.
The school only recently adopted the blended-learning model, so while benchmark data seems promising, the efficacy of the blended-learning program cannot be adequately assessed until another year’s worth of data is available. Administrators do report that the school has seen less discipline referrals since they put the blended-learning program in place, which leads them to believe that students are more engaged in the content.
Describe any other distinctive characteristics about this program if they have not been captured above.
One of the unique characteristics of Joseph Weller Elementary School is that teachers have professional development built into the daily school schedule. They engage in professional development from 11:00 a.m. to 11:25 a.m. everyday, and they also receive four hours per week of additional professional development while students are rotating through other parts of their schedule.
Describe any financial impact this blended-learning program has had on your cost of operations. Use numbers when possible.
There aren’t numbers available currently, but school administrators do have concerns about the financial sustainability of the learning lab portion of the blended-learning program. A surplus allowed school administrators to be fairly frugal with money at the beginning of implementation, but those funds won’t be available in the coming years and there is some concern around how the technology in the learning lab will be funded.
What have been the biggest obstacles in implementing this blended-learning program? What has needed adjustment along the way?
The biggest challenge in implementing the blended-learning program has been teachers needing to adjust to a greater number of students in their classrooms. Most staff members were used to classes with less than 36 students, so helping teachers with class management has an important obstacle the school has worked to overcome.
Have you or are you planning to scale your program model to more/other schools?
The school has no plans to scale at this time.