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New Blended Learning Model Sees Impressive Gains in First Year

on Tuesday, 24 June 2014.

Seattle students achieved 147% of growth targets in math and 122% in reading during the first year of the program

Students at St. Paul School in Seattle, a school that serves lower income Asian Pacific Islander and African-American students, are achieving impressive academic gains using an innovative blended learning and school improvement model developed by the Alliance for Catholic Education (ACE) at the University of Notre Dame.

As measured by the Northwest Evaluation Association Measurement of Academic Progress (NWEA MAP), students achieved 147% of growth targets in math and 122% in reading during the first year of the program, similar to a school wide average of a year and a half of growth in math and a year and a quarter in reading. The average eighth grade student achieved 233% of growth targets in math—akin to two and one-third years of growth—over the past academic year.

stpaulstudents

“The initial results are particularly promising,” Rev. Timothy Scully, C.S.C, the founder of the Alliance for Catholic Education, said. “St. Paul students are performing remarkably well—we are thrilled by the promise this model shows, and believe it can be a powerful tool that more schools like St. Paul can deploy to continue the Catholic school legacy of providing students with an excellent education.”

Blended learning is an emerging model of computer-aided instruction that facilitates more personalized and self-paced learning to more effectively meet the learning needs of each student.  ACE’s approach to blended learning and school strengthening also includes improvements to instructional leadership, enrollment management, and marketing that draws lessons from ACE’s significant experience serving K-12 Catholic schools throughout the country.

St. Paul is seeing school-wide success with its new instructional model.  While the national norm for NWEA MAP performance is for fifty percent of students to meet or exceed their growth targets, seventy-three percent of students at St. Paul exceeded their targets in reading. Eighty-one percent reached the feat in math.

Financially fragile and under-enrolled, St. Paul also saw an enrollment increase of 10 percent over the past year and expects another 10 percent increase in the year to come.  As a part of the ongoing relationship between Notre Dame and the Archdiocese of Seattle, both the Archdiocese and the Fulcrum Foundation said they regard the partnership as a significant success and a model for school strengthening throughout the area.

TJ D’Agostino, who directs the project at Notre Dame, said the success St. Paul students are experiencing is due to teachers more effectively meeting the needs of each child with the benefit of powerful blended learning software, and school leaders continuously strengthening teachers with targeted professional growth in high yield areas like the use of data and deepening a culture of high expectations, key areas of focus for the training and support that ACE provides.

“Blended learning can be a powerful driver for schools to provide a customized education for every child,” D’Agostino said, “though it is most impactful when paired with other best-practices, like data driven instruction, professional learning communities for teachers, and ongoing instructional coaching.  We work closely with the principal and a team of lead teachers to implement these comprehensive strategies.  The results have been transformative.”

The Seattle Office for Catholic Schools and Fulcrum Foundation invited ACE to consider their community as the inaugural site for a new blended learning model, and the city was selected after analysis showed strong local support for the partnership and affirmed the schools’ capacity to serve area students effectively.

Scully, along with Rev. Sean McGraw, C.S.C., founded ACE 20 years ago to fuel Catholic schools with talent and energy. With a presence in every state in the country and programs that address all aspects of Catholic education, ACE has become the premier provider of talent and resources for Catholic schools. Embracing methods from other pioneers in the field, and supported by research on the potential of blending learning, ACE feels this model can be a useful tool to help struggling, inner-city Catholic schools.

St. Paul School is one of the first schools to leverage a premier university’s research and resources to deploy a blending learning and school improvement model. ACE hopes to expand the model of support to other cities in the future. 

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