DC School Transitions to Blended Model/STEM

Adaptive Curriculum (AC), a web-based concept mastery solution that aims to strengthen math and science performance by helping students build a deep understanding of core concepts and skills, has been selected as a key content provider for a new blended learning model that will be implemented at Kramer Middle School in the 2012-13 school year. Part of District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS), Kramer is undergoing a comprehensive transformation that will center around curricula delivered through a 50-50 combination of traditional face-to-face instruction and online courses.

The new blended learning approach is the brainchild of Principal Kwame Simmons who was brought to Kramer in 2010 to help the school achieve the goals laid out in DCPS’ new five-year strategic plan, “A Capital Commitment.” According to Simmons, the model is designed to improve college readiness through 21st century skills, intensify a focus on science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) instruction, and keep students engaged through technology and a robust curriculum.

“We conducted a great deal of research on school improvement models, curriculum, instructional delivery, and technology,” said Simmons. “Adaptive Curriculum immediately rose to the top as a solution we knew would help us achieve our goals. Their deep conceptual learning approach is based on an active learning pedagogy that provides the content, resources and strategies to help teachers engage students, dispel common misconceptions, and emphasize real-world connections in math and science. It’s exactly the approach we need to engage and motivate our students and take them to the next level.”

Designed for grades 6-12, Adaptive Curriculum integrates 3D models, cutting-edge graphics and interactive simulations into active, standards-based learning. This active learning approach motivates learners to explore, make hypotheses, manipulate items and see the impact of their decisions.

A persistently low performing school, Kramer was selected by DCPS to receive additional help through a School Improvement Grant and Race to the Top funds. In Simmons first year at the school students’ overall math proficiency on DCPS’ Comprehensive Assessment System test rose from 18 percent in 2010 to 29 percent in 2011.

The one-year proficiency increase is particularly noteworthy since 87 percent of Kramer’s students are eligible for free and reduced-price lunches and 28 percent have a special education designation. Simmons projects that through the new technology-rich online model, math proficiency will increase to 43 percent in 2012.

“Based on what the research shows, I strongly believe that this new blended learning model will help us reach and even exceed our goals,” said Simmons. “This model speaks to students because of the technology, of course, but it combines that with the guidance of a caring and qualified teacher. For the teachers, it will help automate various tasks and provide more time to focus on what they do best — guide, direct and mentor their students.”

Teachers at Kramer Middle School will begin training on Adaptive Curriculum's conceptual learning program next month, with implementation to begin in the 2012-13 school year. In addition, the company’s programs will be implemented in three other DCPS sites: McFarland Middle School, Johnson Middle School and Shaw Middle School.