If you have been following the Higher-Powered Learning blog for some time now, you know that we really value the leaders of our blended-learning schools. In our last post, we explained why we believe that school leaders drive student success, and how we have witnessed that in our Notre Dame ACE Academies implementing blended learning. So today, we want to share a bit more about one of the school leaders who is making us look good as she helps her teachers implement blended learning.
Ruth Hurrle stepped into her role as the principal of Central Catholic School after 20 years of service in local public schools. When Ruth heard about the position at Central Catholic, she jumped at the opportunity to serve in the south-side Indianapolis parish school so close to her heart.
“I was sitting in mass around this time last year and the pastor was preaching about using our time, talent, and treasure. It really made me think about how I was using my gifts,” Ruth told me. “Just a few days later, I saw the open principal position of Central Catholic posted. I realized this was the perfect opportunity to use my time, talent, and treasure to serve in an environment that combines my passion for urban schools and Catholic education.”
We were thrilled to have Ruth as the new leader of Central Catholic for a variety of reasons, but one in particular: her previous experience with and support of blended learning. After serving for years as an administrator in a blended K-12 public school district, Ruth was not only eager to implement blended learning–she could hardly imagine her school without it.
“We ask our teachers to help close the achievement gap,” Ruth explained, “but we can’t have that expectation if we don’t give them the resources they need to do so. I had already seen how software programs can so clearly pinpoint the areas of concern for a student and then help both the student and teacher address them. I wanted the teachers and students of Central Catholic to have that tool to really accelerate student learning and ultimately close the achievement gap.”
Although Ruth did bring this wealth of experience with blended learning, she was still very eager to learn more when she joined our team this summer. “My old district implemented blended learning before I arrived, and the teachers and administrators received no ongoing support,” Ruth explained. “There was no professional development for new teachers and administrators like myself, or for the returning teachers, so the teachers were not growing and I didn’t feel like I fully understood how to support teachers. I didn’t know exactly what exactly were blended learning best practices.”
Ruth set out to learn at our summer professional development days and has quickly become an extremely active and savvy blended-learning leader. She regularly checks her teachers’ lesson plans, data, and classroom practices to offers words of encouragement and suggestions for improvement. “I know now to focus on the teachers–how they are using their time, responding to the data, and differentiating student work. I want their time with the students to be as high-impact as possible.”
Her current focus? Mastery learning. “The teachers started off the year repeating almost the exact same lesson with different groups. Now I see them differentiating to better meet the students’ needs, but I know we can do more,” Ruth says. “I want every student to truly master the skills they are learning. We are moving in this direction, but we are not quite there yet.”
And though she constantly has an eye for improvement, Ruth also celebrates the remarkable progress her students and teachers have made in such a short time. As Central Catholic students prepare to show what they know on Indiana’s state assessment, which measures grade-level proficiency, Ruth is thrilled to see that the students in blended classrooms have a unique sense of confidence.
“Students from our blended classrooms own their data, so they know how much they have been learning and growing this year,” Ruth says. ‘They will talk to me about their progress on i-Ready, their growth on NWEA, and how they have been working to address specific issues revealed in their data. And then they tell me without a doubt that they will pass this test.”
We are so proud of the culture of student-ownership and growth that Ruth has fostered at Central Catholic this year, and we can’t wait to see this culture grow stronger every year. Have a question for Ruth? Send her an email at or let us know in the comments!